Fans of the Bloggess, Beat the Mid-Winter Blahs With BOOKS!

Let me start by asking this. Did you know that when you create an Amazon wish list, the default address is NONE, unless you click “manage list” and add one? I did not know that. Now you do, too. It’s important for what follows.

So The Bloggess recently hosted her annual Booksgiving, where people post their wish list, and others (usually complete strangers) surprise them by treating them to their book. A group of us are huge fans of hers, and some of us missed it, so we’re going to host it in-house! YAY!

Lumen says books are GOOD!

I was going to create a spreadsheet like I do for the Christmas swap, but we’ve had a death in the family, and I am just not going to have time. But I said I would do SOMETHING, so here it is. If someone wants to create a Google Doc to share or wants to  take it over, let me know in the comments. I can lock comments here and move everything to the spreadsheet. Otherwise…

Here’s how it works:

  • Create a BRAND NEW Amazon wish list with ONE BOOK on it. If you have a preference for e-book or audio, add a comment beside the book.
  • Click on “send list to others,” and copy the link.
  • Paste it in the comments here.
  • If you are international, list your country in your comment so you can find each other.
  • To buy for others, just click their link.

Rules:

  • Only put one book on your list. Only one. If you are hoping to get a book for your kid, too, they need their own list, please. Post them both in a single comment.
  • Don’t add more stuff to the list after someone buys it. I know my Bloggess Buddies wouldn’t add stuff, but it’s best to say it because not everyone that reads this will be familiar with the swap.
  • If you can afford to buy for someone else, please do. It would be fantastic if everyone was able to get a book.
  • If you cannot afford to buy for someone else, don’t feel badly about it.

FAQ

  • Why do I have to create a NEW list? Because if stuff shows up on your list as “purchased,” people get a bad taste in their mouths.
  • To Participate, must I be a part of the Bloggess Buddies group (on Twitter the hashtag says “tribe,” but I am non-native, and I feel more comfortable using “buddy”)? Not necessarily. If you’re a regular reader, go ahead and jump in the pool!

Ya’ll, I will be out of pocket for a while. I cannot promise I can monitor the post. Use your best judgment. Most of you will recognize the folks you interact with regularly on the Twitter or from here in my comments section.

 

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Stuff I No Longer Care About, and One Thing That I Do

So a few days ago, I wrote about a book that has changed the way I view the world. Read it, practice it, love it, quit caring about stuff that doesn’t matter. To be honest, it’s not easy to let go of the emotional stuff. It’s funny that as a borderline hoarder, going all KonMari on my vast collection of *STUFF* has come more easily to me than not giving a… shall we say “fork.” Point me in the direction of a cluttered dresser, and I can sort, and organize, and spark so much joy that the house nearly catches fire. But not caring? I have taken the book with me everywhere so I can re-read parts and get it stuck in my brain. But when I CAN let go, it’s really so wonderful! I feel unburdened.

That’s the beauty of the “Not Giving A Fork” method. If I miss obsessing over stuff, if that anxiety sparks joy, I can have it back. Here are some things that I decided not to waste any more energy on, at least for now:

  • My weight. This one was surprisingly easy given my decades-long struggle with an eating disorder. I am what I am. I go to the gym now several days a week because I frickin’ LOVE the gym (no joke!), and if I lose weight, fine. If I don’t, that’s okay, too. As long as I am active, that is all that matters.
  • The 2020 presidential election. I will care about it later, but dear God! There is too much going on right now to spend an iota of energy worrying about 2020. I’d like Congress to sort out the Now before moving on to 2020.
  • The economy. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I can’t do anything about it. If I can’t fix it, how does worrying help? I’ll write my representatives, of course. But obsessing until I make myself sick? No can do.
  • Whether my kids eat what I cook. This is a big one because I tend to take it kind of personally. But one has sensory issues, and one gets home from school and eats a big snack because he is starving, so he isn’t really hungry for dinner. Know what this means? I can cook what I like!
  • Whether my clothes match when I go to the gym. I am just going to get sweaty. Might as well start out looking like something the cat dragged in.
  • Grouchy people. I didn’t do anything wrong, so I am not going to shoulder the burden of someone else’s bad mood.
  • The Wall. I’ve let my representatives know exactly what I think about the ridiculousness of such a venture. I’ve done what I can do. Yelling at the radio every time it is mentioned does not do me any good.
  • Understanding all the implications of Brexit. I am nosy, but this issue is just too complicated to spare any extra forks for. Over the last 2 years, no one has explained it in simple enough terms for me to understand, so odds are I’m not going to gain a sudden understanding of the complexities of such a big event. I am okay with that.
  • The Oscars.
  • People who claim that e-readers aren’t *real* readers.
  • When someone cuts me off in traffic.
  • Being over-charged at Sonic. $2 isn’t worth getting worked up over.
  • When I make a minor mistake. I apologize, I mean it, and then I let it go.

Now here’s something I DO care about. I’m trying to turn my blog series “Notes From the Zookeeper” into an actual book. I have some chapters laid out already, but I would love some input. If you were reading such a book, what would you hope to learn? This book is going to be primarily factual, with lots of references, but there will be room for anecdotes about animals. What do you want to know? Help me bring this idea to fruition!

I had so much fun with “Unscienceandanimal” hash tag!

The Thing That Has Maybe Changed My Life

If you read my last post, you may remember that I have begun to employ the KonMari method around my house. If you missed it, you can catch up here. Embarrassing photo and all. It’s so simple. Look at all my things, one by one. If a thing makes me happy (or is something I *need*), I keep it. If I don’t need it, and it doesn’t make me happy, I have permission to let it go. This notion is huge for me! I grew up low-income, and with tight family ties. This combo is a giant-double whammy, and has led me to be a borderline hoarder all my life. But now, I have permission to let it go. My brain does not operate in any kind of linear manner, so organization has been a huge struggle until now. But using KonMari, I have less *stuff* to process, and packing what I DO have in clear bins makes sense. I get it! And it’s easy for me to maintain because I can see immediately when something is out of place and return it to its home. But there’s something that has helped me even more.

I have started going back to the gym, too. I had a wake-up call that reminded me that I need to take care of my body. The gym seems cliche (have you met me?!), New-Years-Resolution Driven, but the truth is that I love the gym. After spending an hour on the treadmill, reading and listening to music, I feel so good. It’s like a spa treatment. I have not prioritized going because it felt like a guilty pleasure, and because it has been difficult to get there. The Destroyer has had full-on panic attacks when we have tried to get him to stay at the facility’s childcare. It just wasn’t worth it. But now The Padawan can babysit, and The Destroyer even likes to work out on the treadmill, too, so it can be a bonding experience, at least in the short term. But that isn’t the thing that has revolutionized my take on the world.

I went to the used bookstore the other day, with $90 in credit from the books I had KonMari’d because I didn’t feel like I needed them anymore. In the humor section, I found the most incredible book, a gift from God. It’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*** by Sarah Knight.This is a family blog, so we’re going to say the f-word is Fig. The idea behind this book is so simple. Set a Fig Budget for how many figs you have to give overall and then see where they *really* matter and where they don’t. Where the figs given do not matter, cut them out. That’s it. There are even tips for how to do so politely so that feelings don’t get hurt when we say no. It’s all about prioritizing, and it’s glorious.

As a result, just a few days after buying the book, I am sitting at my kitchen table at 8:30 in the morning. School is delayed due to ice on the road. Husband has an early-morning meeting, so it is up to me to stay home and disperse kids. I normally leave for work at 7:15, and Wednesdays are busy days. But can I change the weather? I cannot. So why invest the energy of giving a fig? So I am blogging and drinking coffee while my son and his buddy play football outside. It’s not even an inconvenience. This re-route is a gift.

I went out to move my car for husband, and the car wouldn’t start. The battery is sick and needs replacing. That will take me a half-hour this morning. Can I control it? No. Will buying a new battery after I drop kids off make my life better? It will. No more mornings wondering if today is going to be the day my car won’t start. I can put that fig back in my pocket. And if it’s a battery? They’re expensive. But electrical issues in the car are MORE expensive. So a battery seems like a good deal. I will save this money-fig for another day.

So there it is. All that time and energy spent worrying about things that I can’t control today have been invested in writing. Do you spend more figs each day than you have? I have your solution. Read it, love it, share it. I’m serious.

A Zookeeper’s Gratitude

Please don’t ask me why I have put off this post for so long. I simply do not know. It’s not that I am a whiny ingrate. I have been practicing gratitude daily for a while now because it really works. But I’m tired. Somehow, the act of creating a post, and finding the right pictures, and editing, and feeling a little exposed has felt like more than I could do. I have been ill for a while, and illness has taken its toll. I’ve been doling out my energy by the tablespoonful just to keep functioning, and the hoops have felt too tiny to jump through. But I promised my sweet friend, Dawn. Gratitude is worth giving some energy to, even if I don’t count my blessings all the way up to fifty. I am not on the verge of death here, I promise. Even though this first paragraph is kinda heavy. I’m just tired, ya’ll. Physically spent. There are worse things.

So here I am. And what am I grateful for? Lots. So much. I have good things, and more good things on the horizon. Some of them are more obvious than others.

  • I am so thankful for Marie Kondo. Let me just tell you, the Netflix series really was life-changing for me. If you’re not familiar, Marie wrote a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Now she has a TV series. If you know me in real life, you know that I am a borderline hoarder. I have sentimental attachments to every, little thing. And I lack a linear thought process, so my house is perpetually a mess. I can appreciate a tidy space, but my brain doesn’t always know how to get there. But I watched the entire season in a couple of days, and now I get it. She doesn’t tell anyone to throw anything away, ever. Ever. She gets a bad rap on the internet because the internet is for people who like to complain about things. She says that if an item “sparks joy”, (or if you NEED it, like pots and pans) keep it. There is a way to store it. In the last three weeks, I have donated about 15  trash bags full of things that I was ready to let go of. It is an incredible feeling. For the first time ever, I feel like my living space is getting tidy. And I traded books to our used bookstore and got $90 in credit. Which I am saving for something cool.

 

  • FROGS – It has been a good frog-year for me at work. I got my first eggs from my Bumblebee Dart Frogs, which are easy to breed but had eluded me. I got 2 clutches, and I have four froglets. They are tiny enough to sit on my pinkie nail. I have learned from my mistakes as I went, and they have not suffered for it. I am pretty stoked.

See that little tadpole? It’s not so little anymore!

 

  • Big Al. Because always Big Al. He has so much personality, and he gives me hugs when I need them. Al, for the record, I always need them.

Big Al is pressing his face into my shoulder. It’s how he gives hugs. I love him.

  • I got to take a trip to San Diego this summer. For free. Getting there was a nightmare, but I learned that I do like to travel. And I can pack light. I can go cross-country for four days with only a backpack. As long as my e-reader is in it, I’m good.
  • This is my favorite picture of all.

 

  • My e-reader. I love my Kobo. Don’t @ me. I get a little tired of the “I don’t like e-readers because I like REAL books” crowd. I love physical books, too, but I am running out of room. Literal floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our family room are filled to overflowing. I do buy some nice print editions – most books related to my job are either not available in e-format, or they are so beautiful that I buy physical copies. I get all the illustrated Harry Potters, too. But my e-reader can hold 10,000 books without gaining a single gram. And I can fit it in my pocket to take it anywhere. And it is backlit, so if I can’t sleep, I can read without disturbing my husband. And when my hands start cramping, I can prop it up on my lap and turn a page with a single tap. I don’t have to fight to hold open a huge volume.

 

  • My Tweeps. I love Twitter. I have found a band of fairly like-minded people there, and they are often my soft place to fall. I have also found some people that I don’t necessarily agree with on all things, but that educate me on the other side of lots of issues. Twitter has been a good learning place for me.

 

  • Books. I have read so many great books recently! I have been on a roll. Not one stinker, DNF in the entire bunch!

 

  • My tortoises groups are laying eggs in record numbers, and some of them are developing. I got six shoe boxes of eggs this year, which is impressive because they only lay one egg at a time, and I don’t start the incubation process for an individual box until there are at least 9 eggs in it. Not all of them will hatch. Most of them will not. But I am collecting some really valuable data, and I am trying some new things to see if I can hit the sweet spot and increase the hatch rate.

Common Spider Tortoise is awake and ready to hatch.

  • Power tools. I was able to build a new series of outdoor enclosures for the Northern Spider Tortoise adults, and as a result, they got to spend their summer outdoors. The natural sunlight does WONDERS. UV produces vitamin D, which in turn helps the females shell their eggs properly and utilize the calcium in their food, it gives them signals that can’t really be replicated indoors. Sometimes it takes a year to reap benefits, so it might be this upcoming breeding season before I see results, but I am hopeful. And proud. I did a thing with very little help, and I did it with power tools and an 8lb sledge-hammer.

 

  • Home Improvement Stores
  • My plants. Sorry, husband. They spark joy, so they stay…
  • My cell phone (it’s so much more fun and useful than I ever thought that it would be!)
  • The Padawan got his first job.
  • Family meals when Girl-Child tells stories from her days at private school
  • I’m getting better. One day at a time, one step at a time, if not feeling better, I am functioning better. I can at least make dinner some nights before getting into bed.
  • Little surprises. This banana plant was, to the casual observer, dead. Look what popped up yesterday while I was off!
  • My bed. My comfy, cozy, welcoming resting spot, covered in cats who want to be near me.
  • Puppies catching treats. You’re welcome.
  • Friends who prompt me to get the blogging done.

Alright. I have completed my post. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write your own post. Visit Dawn to get complete rules and link up, and make sure you check out some of the other folks in the link-up. Come on in. The water’s fine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The One Where I Learned What I Already Knew.

I have composed this post and recomposed it so many times. I do my best blogging in the shower. I’m brilliant, funny, clever. And then I sit down in front of the computer to write it out, and moths fly out of my ears. Don’t say voice-to-text. My next blog post would consist mostly of “Who took my tweezers? I put them RIGHT HERE! If you don’t like it when Mommy has whiskers, DON’T TAKE MY TWEEZERS!” and “Who flushed the toilet? I lost all the water pressure!”

This post is a bit of a departure from my normal doings. It’s less about humor or endangered species and more about real life. It’s about my smallest one, the child formerly known as Squish. He was horrified by this nickname and demanded that I change it at once. By his decree, he will henceforth be known as The Destroyer.

dp cucumbers help puffy eyes

One of my favorite goofballs

We’ve always known that the little critter marched to the beat of his own drummer. I love that about him. All of my kids are weird in their own wonderful ways. Weird is good. Weird suits me. I wouldn’t want to change one thing about them. This right here is one of my favorite stories. He’s kind of hilarious, and he views the world in his own special way.

I can’t say that the news was unexpected. We’ve seen it coming for a long time now. Since he was eighteen months old, we knew there was something different. Something a little… off. He was evaluated as a toddler for speech delay, but the delay wasn’t significant. Just something to keep an eye on. And I saw when he was in preschool that he tended to play alone. I talked to the teachers. Oh, no, he’s fine. He has LOTS of friends! The list of signs grew longer. Anxiety. Hand-biting. Running in place when he was overwhelmed. Tantrums that didn’t fade as he grew older. Panic attacks. Fears about weird things while daredeviling with stuff that could actually kill him. We suspected. We worked with teachers, worked together, trying to make a plan that would keep his development moving forward. His teachers have been phenomenal, always brainstorming about things that could help. We have been so, so fortunate.

We avoided having more evaluations done. We didn’t want to change our kid. We were so worried that a doctor would put the little guy on meds for ADHD. He is a busy little person, but we can work with busy. We did okay.

I am not even totally sure what caused us to pull the trigger on it and seek out additional evaluations. I think it was when the medication for his anxiety backfired and sent him into unexpected rages every evening. So we got a referral, we made some calls, and we waited. And after a grueling two-and-a-half hour appointment, we learned what we knew. The Destroyer is Autistic.

We knew it. We’ve been constantly developing work-arounds since he was a toddler. I’ve run the zoo’s camp for Autistic kids since we first offered it. I know Autistic kids, and I love them. In some ways, having my own kid’s autism confirmed is like being given a golden unicorn, a priceless gift. He sees the world in such an incredible way. But no one else ever saw him like I see him until we went to the specialist.

In other ways, the diagnosis was overwhelming. We left the office, and we didn’t talk a whole lot. It was Halloween, and we had a party to get to and lunch, and lots of fun things planned. But suddenly this little person was a stranger. After hours of picking him apart behavior by behavior, I had lost the gestalt of him. Suddenly I couldn’t reconcile the child in the backseat with the little boy I had yelled at that morning for throwing his football in the house. He was a stranger.

“He’s the same kid he was yesterday,” my brain told me. “And they said you’d done great with him.” And it was true. The therapist told us that we had been creating interventions all along that aided his development, and that if we hadn’t, he would be a much different kid, he would have more difficulties than he does. But her words didn’t help. We did the right thing. But which thing was that, exactly? Out of the blue, I no longer knew how to parent this child. I felt like I was walking on thin ice; one false step and I would break him. I did not see my son as my son, but instead a collection of neurodivergent behaviors. Yesterday the only thing on our schedule was church choir, and now we’re looking at Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and who knows what else. And I’m tired. We were doing okay before, right? Is all this stuff necessary? And how do I handle the time off work?

I’ve made a million phone calls. Some are answered, most are not. It’s hard to get an appointment with a specialist apparently. I’ve shifted things around, talked to the insurance company to see what’s covered, done all the grown-up things. I’ve ordered books and special Chewelry so he has something to gnaw on. I’ve gone through the steps without feeling them, checking off boxes one by one.

And then out of the blue, I *got* this kid. When our mornings are rocky, I realized, it is usually because I have not been clear in my instructions. He wants to do the right thing (mostly, he is 10 after all). He’s not trying to get on my nerves. It’s just that I haven’t made myself clear. Now I am rethinking the structure of our morning and the things that I say. And it’s easier. Because I *get* him now. I am learning to put myself in his shoes because he does not yet know how to put himself in mine. And the speech therapist will go to his school. When she told me that, I felt like a weight had been lifted. One less thing to schedule around. And we’re doing it.

I still have a lot to learn. I have to weigh the pros and cons of different therapies, and I have to learn all the lingo. There’s so much that I don’t know. But it’s pointless to expect that I’ll learn it all the first week. Or the first month. Or the first year. Baby steps. This month, we’re concentrating on National Novel Writing Month. He’s writing, I’m writing.  I’ll read a little on cognitive behavioral therapy and do a little research on games and things we can do at home. Baby steps. If he’s doing well know, imagine how much better he will do with additional therapy.

I still don’t want to change my kid. Autism isn’t a bad thing. It makes him who he is. He is funny and bright and driven and sweet. He doesn’t need to change. I do. I need to let go of my fears of the future and let the pieces fall into place. Adventure awaits around every corner, and I am so here for it.

He set up this shot. He has the most delicious sense of humor!

The Introverted Activist: Be the Light

I was so depressed this morning that I could barely get out of bed. This administration becomes more monstrous by the day; there is so much evil in the world, and I can’t take it anymore. There aren’t enough anti-depressants in the world to make me feel better. Like, I asked the world to quit turning because I wanted to get off. What can I do? I called my senators (both Republicans, both speaking out against the abuses at the border), I called the Department of Justice (1-202-514-2000), but I didn’t feel better. Not at all. Again, what can I do? I am one person. And I figured it out. My most important job right now is to make my own tiny corner of the world the very best that it can possibly be. And so I did.

I did anything I could think of.

  • I picked up trash
  • I checked a reservoir before the end of the day so my co-worker didn’t have to fill it
  • I paid for the groceries of a little elderly lady whose check kept getting rejected at the check out
  • I let a birthday boy help feed Al his watermelon
  • I let cars into traffic, and I didn’t honk when someone cut me off
  • I talked to lots of zoo guests who had questions and tried to make their day a little better
  • I let son choose what we watched while we worked
  • I made falafel for husband and son
  • I didn’t expect son to eat the tabouli
  • I let smallest pick his own dinner – ramen noodles – and didn’t bark about nutrition (there’s always tomorrow!)
  • I fed my silver Arowana a little extra goodness. Roaches. Her favorite
  • I gave the dogs extra biscuits
  • I am making plans to take my husband to see the Mr. Rogers documentary – something that we BOTH need!
  • I wrote the report for today so my co-worker didn’t have to
  • I gave my intern some fun jobs to do – like feed Al. It was good for both of them

Am I cured? Not by a long shot. My heart still hurts, and I am struggling to breathe sometimes. But tomorrow is another day, and I will do it again. As much as I can for as long as I can. You do it, too. Do what you can to make your world better than it was without you. You do it, I’ll do it, and before you know it, we will have our world back. We can do it. Together. Be the light.

Notes From the Zookeeper: How DO You Move a 525lb Tortoise?

It’s the best time of year – SPRING IS HERE! And do you know what that means? It’s time for Big Al to go on exhibit! Al the Aldabra Giant Tortoise loves to be back out on exhibit. He likes to be out in the fresh air, natural sunlight, green grass, and in the midst of his adoring public.

So how do we move this big guy? In the past, we have lifted him in the back of a truck and driven him to the front of the zoo. And by “we,” I mean 8 guys who are way stronger than I am. Al does not enjoy being lifted. It’s unsettling for a tortoise to be lifted off their feet, but there wasn’t a better way. Until this year. This year, we have a crate!

Big Al did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday. He knows what it means when the exhibit design team and our curator appear at his enclosure. And he does not like it. Last fall, he did fine walking toward the truck until he heard our curator’s voice, and then he knew for SURE what was about to happen. He headed off in a different direction as fast as his chilly legs could carry him. So it’s all about patience and baby steps. I did ask my curator to steer clear so Al wouldn’t be tipped off.

Al loves my son, so I had him walk Al toward the greenhouse gate with a handful of honeysuckle. Exhibit design team came down to meet me. In order for the move to be as stress-free as possible, I told the team to treat it as a social call. They could offer him treats, pet him, etc. My goal was to keep them from having to push or pull on him because once that happens, he is no longer game, and our job would be much more difficult. The tricky part was that the greenhouse is surrounded by woods – lots of delicious things to eat. If he headed off-course, we’d have to wrestle him into the crate.

How do we move a Giant Tortoise? Like this:

We planted grass and clover last fall, and I over-seeded a few times to get the lot ready for my sweet boy. And he has thoroughly enjoyed it. He stayed up way past his bedtime because he couldn’t stop eating the delicious, fresh grass.

The move was completely without fear or trauma. He did not lose his trust in me, and was happy enough to pose for a picture. No hissing and running. Yay!

Who’s a tired boy? Normally he’s down for the night by now, but he’s so intrigued by the clover that he is only taking a nap. How do I know? By his stretched out neck. When he is down for the night, he parks himself with his head against a wall.

Notes From the Zookeeper: Team Player! And the Cutest Thing

Gotta make this quick because I woke up late. But I promised to share an amazing video, so here I am.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Grumpy little Northern Spider Tortoise.  Freshly hatched with plastron still folded

I did something crazy a few weeks ago. No surprises there, really. I am kind of unpredictable a times. But the zoo is a corporate sponsor of the local marathon, and that meant we needed a TEAM. I am a team-player, friends. I likes me a good team, and I LOVE a long walk, so I signed up for the 1/2 marathon. Not to run it, mind. I was put together out of spare parts, kind of like a platypus. I cannot stay sound enough to run anywhere unless chased. Even when I’m chased, I am not fast. I can only win in the survival of the fittest by pushing someone down. Don’t gotta be fast, just faster than someone else, right?

Anyway, yesterday was the day. I originally had a goal of finishing in 3:30 – three hours, thirty minutes. That’s how fast you have to walk it before they start taking the course down. But then I developed this pesky arthritis in the ole spinal column, so my plans changed. Finish the thing with no time goal. Finish, or die trying.

My view yesterday morning:

The Sun Sphere, a Knoxville landmark from my childhood. I have some bitterness about this beautiful thing. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. No, Marge, I did not forget.

Who’s an excited girl?

40 degrees, not quite daylight, but here I am with about 5000 of my closest friends!

And the crowd builds energy. So many people of different body shapes, all out here with a common goal. Also, something I didn’t expect.

Yeah, that’s a T-rex. See that yellow bib? That means it’s running the full marathon. Godspeed, my Cretaceous friend!

I hung with some of my teammates for a while, but though I am not built for running, you can wind me up and I’ll walk all day. It was actually more comfortable for me to open my stride and walk faster. And the miles fell down behind me. I started passing people, especially on the hills. You’ve never seen my legs, but I do not have calves – I have steer. I am MADE for climbing hills. Plus. I walk our neighborhood, and it is uphill in both directions. I am a rock star when it comes to churning up hills. Then the sun came out, and I got to see some of the prettiest parts of my city on my stroll.

Mile 13. I am so happy, having SO MUCH FUN!

I could not stop smiling. An officer at mile 13 barked “There’s no smiling in marathons!” I yelled back “The course hasn’t been taken down yet! I am achieving my goal!” He tossed me a thumbs-up.

And then, there it was. The finish line. This marathon finishes runners on the 50 yard line of our football stadium. We’re projected onto the jumbo tron as we cross, and then a volunteer hands us a space blanket and a medal. It was an incredible moment!

And here I am!

Selfie at the finish line! I did it! LOOK AT MY SHINY MEDAL! Sparkly, pretty, and heavy enough to be used as a weapon! Yes, that’s a Gryffindor shirt I am wearing. It also has a cape, which isn’t visible in the photo.

And now for news of the cute. My co-worker has had some incredible success hatching Malagasy Flat-tailed tortoises. Pyxis planicauda are hard to breed, even harder to incubate. But here we are!

Hatching is a lot of work. I’mma take a little nap.

First delicious meal. Is that a mushroom?

And now she is hatching some Taylor’s Shield-tailed Agamas. I’ll share more about those later, but it’s school and work time now. I’ll leave you with these.

The pink in the egg is the head of the embryo. The pointy thing is it’s head.

And if you do nothing else today, watch this video. Embryos move long before they hatch.

What’s magical in your world this week? Did you attend a march? Tell me about it!

The Introverted Activist: We Shouldn’t Have To #MarchForOurLives

I don’t want to write this. I am tired. I’m worn out from daily gun violence across the country. I’m exhausted from fighting to make my voice heard in this whole debate about gun reform. And I am SICK and tired of the rabid folks who want to spin school shootings as just one of those things when literally no other nation with our kind of wealth and power has thousands of people die each year from gun-related violence. And that want to reframe all attempts at reform as “Them libs wanna take all your guns.” Because that’s garbage.

  • If you can’t log in to social media without seeing reports of gun violence, you have a gun problem.
  • If it is more difficult to purchase an R-rated movie than a long gun, you have a gun problem.
  • If your child has ever lain on the floor of their classroom during an active shooter emergency, wondering if the footsteps in the hallway are those of a gunman coming to kill them, you have a gun problem.
  • If your third-grader has ever come home distressed because their assigned spot in an active-shooter drill seems way too obvious, and they speak matter-of-factly that when a shooter comes (not *if*, but when), they will be shot first, you have a gun problem. Third graders in our country have to think about where they are going to hide when a shooter comes to their school. America, friends.

I’m going to suggest that, perhaps, these cold-blooded murders are not simply the cost of doing business in a free country. We have to do something differently if we want a different result.

To those screaming “2nd AMENDMENT!” I call BS. In 1934, the National Firearms Act created a list of firearms that are illegal to possess. Machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, explosives, silencers. So there is a precedent for restricting certain times of firearms. So now is the time to make some additions to the list.

Do I want ALL THE GUNS? Um, no. I take no issue with hunting, or with people having hand guns as personal protection (though I will not send my kid to a school where teachers are carrying handguns on premises). I do want:

  • military and police-grade weapons and certain long guns (AR-15, I’m looking at you) banned, along with large amounts of ammunition.
  • gun owners to carry liability insurance for each firearm they own.
  • more extensive background checks.
  • loopholes for gun transfers and gun shows closed.
  • concealed carry permits granted only to military and police.
  • people found guilty of domestic violence lose ability to own firearms

Is this a liberal agenda? I’d like to think it’s more one of common sense. I consider myself more middle-of-the road when it comes to politics, but if being sick of seeing children die of preventable violence at school, well then, call me a liberal.

Here’s an incredible video my son shared with me about common-sense gun reform. And it uses cats as a fabulous example.

To the folks talking to the streets in protest tomorrow, I am so proud of you! And I am with you in spirit.

The One Where God Smacked Me Upside the Head

I grew up in a church. My family was one that was in church any time the doors were open. We were in children’s choir, youth group, puppeteering, even clowning. *** My exposure to all things Jesus included all the best Bible stories. And there were some weird ones. Daniel hung out with some lions, Jesus turned water into wine. Kind of cool. And of course I knew Jonah and the whale. Or I thought I did. And then my friend Danielle delivered me a sermon.

In case you aren’t familiar, I’ll catch you up to speed.

So Jonah was a prophet of God, and God wanted him to go to Ninevah, which was the heart and soul of wickedness. They skinned their enemies and cut out their tongues, they terrorized the countryside, and they probably didn’t even wipe their sweat off the stationary bike at the gym. They were all around bad dudes and dudettes. And God wanted them to know it. Text messaging hadn’t been invented yet, except for that one time with some stone tablets on Mount Sinai, so God told Jonah to get a move on and tell the bad guys that God was going to shake things up if they didn’t change their ways. And Jonah said no.

Here’s the part I didn’t understand. Jonah said no, not because he was afraid he would be skinned, detongued, and forced to sit through spin class in a puddle of someone else’s sweat. He didn’t want to go because he didn’t want God to forgive them.

See, Jonah knew God. He knew his goodness and his mercy and that God kept his word. And if God keeps his word, that would mean that if the bad guys said sorry and meant it, God was going to forgive them. FORGIVE THEM! And Jonah basically said in his head “Are you kidding me? God wants me to share heaven with these heathens? Yeah, no thanks!” So he jumped on board a ship to Joppa, which is, like, a gajillion miles away in the opposite direction. Because we can hide from God and all, right?

Another phenomenal BC drawing. You’re welcome.

As I sat in the sermon, God hit me over the head with a giant, soggy fish. Danielle was preaching to ME. And God and I had a chat.

God: Yo, Jonah.

Me: That’s not my name.

God: Might as well be. Hey, how ’bout handing out some of that forgiveness I’ve given you?

Me: But, they… I mean… what about… Okay, NO.

God: Seriously? Do it.

Me: But they –

God: Do it.

Me: But when-

God: *facepalm* Kid, Imma say this slowly so you can understand. You don’t deserve grace. But I gave it to you, right?

Me: Right, but-

God: You’re a sinner.

Me: I got that, but they –

God: Who forgave those sins?

Me: Um, you, but-

God: Who?

Me: You. You forgave my sins.

God: You’re a sinner. They are sinners.

Me: You got that right! Do you know what they –

God: *sigh* Let me explain it another way. You don’t deserve grace any more than they do. And they certainly don’t deserve it any less.

Me: …

God – Hello?

Me:…

God: I’m glad we had this little talk, aren’t you?

And here’s the beauty of it. I AM glad we had that talk. Because it has changed me. Suddenly, I could let go of that perceived slight. I didn’t worry over someone’s misdeeds because I, too, had been given a gift that I didn’t deserve. I fall short of God’s glory, and He gets that. He’s got grace in abundance and stands in the gap for me, and if he will do it for me in all my brokenness, who am I to stand in the way of other people receiving the same gift? So I say thanks and move on when I didn’t think moving on was even a possibility. God is good that way.

Have you ever felt like the message (from sermon, book, movie, music video, etc) was directed at you?

***Don’t knock it. We were paid $10 an hour in the 80s to don the clown suit and terrorize entertain children at picnics and such.