Good Things Thursday

I am in a low place right now. The political climate is eating me alive. Every day it feels like there is a new disaster, and I feel like one of the dogs in the learned helplessness experiments. Remember those studies from Psych 101? A dog that received an electrical shock that it couldn’t avoid eventually learned to give up and quit trying. I feel that way. I’m shocked every, single day, and I don’t know how to not just give up.

But I’m NOT giving up, and that is what today is about. The political maelstrom may scream all around me, but I will find the little things that give me peace and happiness. Stolen joys.

  • This one is the only one of political nature. It’s pretty funny. It’s a PSA about gerrymandering, and it’s great!

  • My new boots.
Bestwaterproof boots

My beautiful Muck boots

They say you can’t judge someone until after walking a mile in their shoes. This means you can never judge me because I will not let you WEAR my boots. So there. They are lovely and warm and waterproof, and I ordered them on a Tuesday, and they arrived on Wednesday. I’ve never had free shipping mean “get it in 24 hours” before!

  • This kid:
do cucumbers help puffy eyes

He decided he wanted a spa day, so he begged his dad to buy cucumbers. Best fifty cents ever spent.

Also, this kid:

Is skating still popular

He was a skater boy, a young alligator boy… I don’t know the song.

Yeah, same kid. He has anxiety issues and some irrational fears. Well, to me they are irrational; to him they make perfect sense. But this kid who is so afraid of getting hurt went to a school skating party and decided he was going to learn to skate. He spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, and he was a walking bruise, but by the end of the evening, there was this:

best songs to skate to

Look at him go! May we all have the determination of a second-grader who decides they’re gonna skate, come hell, high water, or far-too-solid floor.

  • This kid:
are snakes good pets

His eyes are kind of wild because he is my son. He can’t keep his eyes open when his picture is taken unless he opens them ALL the way.

He has turned into a Herp kid. He loves snakes and lizards, and he has taken over my snakes at home. Pictured here with Colonel Shucks.

  • Baby tortoises enjoying some mushrooms.
The little bite marks in the piece of stem makes me laugh. They're so serious about their mushrooms!

The little bite marks in the piece of stem makes me laugh. They’re so serious about their mushrooms!

  • It’s half-price candy time! I can’t share a picture because I ate it all already. Sue me.
  • It’s also Girl Scout Cookie time! All the district cookies were distributed in the zoo’s lower parking lot today. I could have staged a heist and made off with a semi loaded with the things, but I didn’t.
  • I leave for Amphibian Management School in a week-and-a-half. Yes, it’s a real thing.
  • I was invited to talk to a group of first graders about my job! Yes, please!
  • My Christmas presents for 4 people got here today! I love giving gifts.
  • Phones that can get $1000 texts for $5.
  • My new siphon at work. It sucks. Like, in the literal good way. It has revolutionized maintenance of one of my exhibits. If you have a decent-sized aquarium, don’t go with the cheap knock-offs. Go for name-brand Pythons. No, they didn’t sponsor my post (they can if they want to, though!). It’s just a product that works beautifully!
  • Sweet, sweet sick cat is hanging on. She is not eating well, but she is still here.
  • Then there’s this:
How beautiful are these books? It's a rhetorical question. Because the answer can only be SO BEAUTIFUL!

How beautiful are these books? It’s a rhetorical question. Because the answer can only be SO BEAUTIFUL!

The Bloggess held her second annual Booksgiving, which was an opportunity for people to gift one another books via Amazon wishlists. I received Spanish Harry Potter on Sunday. I am planning a trip to the Galapagos to study Giant Tortoises, and I want to increase my Spanish fluency. Reading is a great way to do that. And then today I came home and found The Bloggess’ own book in my mailbox! Someone had bought a second book for me! Is there anything better than the kindness of strangers?

What’s good in your world right now?

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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.

 

 

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.

Surviving Depression

Some posts, like my last one, are so easy to write. The words and images flow to the page in no time. This post isn’t one of those. I’ve pondered it for weeks on end. How do I say it just right, so that I don’t look like a crazy person do the topic justice? Will I say it right? Will I embarrass myself? My family? The cats? They would never forgive me.

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn't exist. M'kay?

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn’t exist. M’kay?

So here goes, for better or for worse. I have experienced depressive episodes for most of my life, for different reasons. I know now that I have a congenital liver disorder that can affect my whole body, including my moods. The psych symptoms are the hardest to deal with, and it doesn’t help to remind myself that these feelings aren’t “real,” that they are a biological reaction to a missing enzyme. It also doesn’t help to remind myself that I should be grateful for what I have. I can’t be grateful for my beautiful family when all I can remember is how I have let them down. I know I have a great job, two of them, actually, but I can’t think about it without thinking of all the balls I have let drop or how I could be better.

Depression is a beast. It’s a paralytic. I cannot appreciate the big things because they are just too, too big, a shadow looming overhead. Sometimes in the thick of it, I need the little things, things small enough to hold in my paralyzed hands. So there you go. My tiny things.

Kittens. Forever and ever and ever. Ravenclaw and Pandora are sometimes what keeps me going. I can put one foot in front of the other if I know that in an hour or two, I can cover myself in baby kittens and peace out.

Pandora says she just can't even, ya'll.

Pandora says she just can’t even, ya’ll.

And they sleep beside me, and they keep me company, and even when they are grown up cats, they will be my refuge. Ravenclaw’s love language is a game called “Imma trip you until you pick me up and hold me like a little baby.” And Pandora’s is “Imma lick your eyeballs in the middle of the night.” I don’t even have to think about whether or not I deserve their love. Deserve it or not, they’re serving it up.

My plants. I might have a problem, you know. I have a green thumb, and I LOVE to grow things. The only tiny wrinkle here is that I only have one window for winter when all the plants come IN. And five cats. F-I-V-E cats. But my plants help me to keep going.

The more complicated it is to grow a cultivore, the more I like it. Maybe when I have success with the tough ones, it proves I can do something right, despite the voices in my head to the contrary.

Harry Potter. And it doesn’t bother me at all to say it. I love being in a world that has Harry Potter, and even NEW Harry Potter things. And I can cos-play with the best of them. I won an award at The Cursed Child book release party. Best Costume Overall. I feel proud to be a part of it. (If you click to enlarge the images, you will see the Playboy mags on the shelf behind me)

Cherries. There are cherries in the world. I guess they are out of season now, but that means it will be less than a year before they are BACK on shelves.

I couldn't find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some.

I couldn’t find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some. I am a giver.

Friendship in unexpected places. We had a Harry Potter event at the zoo, and I had too much work to do and couldn’t participate. But the people running the event didn’t want me to miss out. They made me a magic wand. With Slytherin sparkles and a ribbon that looks like snake-skin. I am humbled every time I look at it.

The photo doesn't do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

The photo doesn’t do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

This might be the beginning of a series. Out of curiosity, how do you keep going when things get tough?

 

Walkies With Phoebe

Love me

I walk my son to school. Everyday, rain or shine. Well, light rain or shine. I don’t want the kid to start the day a soaking wet mess. And everyday, we see the above fuzzy face with the sad eyes that clearly beg “Take me with you!” The weather has been so hot, though, that it hasn’t been safe to take her. All summer long, Phoebe has been on mandated slug-itude. Not much of a stretch, usually.  PBGVs are in the Basset family, after all, laziness comes rather naturally. But Phoebe is a “go-do” kind of dog and wants nothing more than to be with us. And since morning temperatures have recently dropped to the 50’s, she’s now good to go.

Walking with her family in brisk weather is Phoebe’s idea of heaven. She scampers ahead, tail tucked under like a furry rudder, then dashes back. She sniffs, she prances, she play-bows, chases squirrels. It’s a glorious thing. The entire walk to school is a joyful event. It’s hard not to laugh at her antics and join in the fun. I wish it could last forever. And so does she.

Here’s the fun. We walk to school daily. And every single day, Phoebe forgets what happens at the half-way point: she has to leave her boy. Each morning, we get to the sidewalk in front of the school, my son kneels and hugs her goodbye, and she is taken by complete and utter surprise as he merrily skips away to join his friends. “What the —” is her clear thought, as she strains at the leash, wags her tail and cocks her head in puzzled anxiety. Every day, she looks at me with the expression that says “He’s gone too far! Let me go get him so we can go home! Wait! Where is he going? Please bring him back to me!” And every day, my job is to drag her back down the sidewalk, ignoring her frantic backward glances and reminding her that we will get him in the afternoon. Phoebe has always had a special relationship with her boy, ever since the day we got her, but she is not above shopping for a new one. She takes a studious sniff at each passing child, as if to say “I came with one, I am leaving with one!” Every single day.

Usually about half-way home, Phoebe’s brain re-engages, and she becomes magically aware that food will be served upon her arrival. The spring returns to her step, and she bounces with glee. Most days.

Today was different. Today, instead of playing chicken at the crosswalk, a car actually motioned for us to cross. So we did. Out of appreciation and a bit of stupidity, we ran across the road. And all heck broke loose. Boy-child inadvertently kicked the dog in the hind leg. Son snapped at dog for nearly tripping him. Phoebe, always the drama queen,perceived the situation thus: playful romp interrupted by monster biting her leg. She yelped and bucked, dragging me the rest of the way across the road. Being yelled at by her boy just added icing to the poop sandwich. Having slipped her mind that her boy leaves her every single day in exactly the same place, Phoebe’s natural interpretation of his departure on this fair morning was that he no longer loved her. In the natural, healthy manner of a co-dependent, Phoebe became determined to make him love her again. Her attempts to drag me all the way down the sidewalk so she could demonstrate her undying devotion to her boy were creditable.

I somehow managed to encourage her back down the sidewalk and up the hill, but now her normal “leaving my boy behind forever and ever and ever” worry has expanded to include “boy no longer loves me, and monsters want to eat me.” She began trotting up the road, tail tucked, ears held so high that they met in the middle of her head, alert to any sound. Her sudden hurry had nothing to do with breakfast and everything to do with getting home and undercover before the leg-biters could finish her off. She responded to my calls and whistles with a wide-eyed stare. I attempted to get her attention again by means of an obedience lesson, but a frightened dog whose brain has taken a brief vacation is but a poor student. I settled for significantly slowing my pace to indicate that I did not share her worry. She didn’t buy that, either.

We were nearly home when it happened. I called her name, and she responded by trotting warily back to me. I took a playful swipe at her tail, and suddenly the light came. She play-bowed and scampered merrily up the road in clear anticipation of breakfast. Who knew that her brain button was in her bum? Maybe that’s why dogs are so attentive to that particular region. They’re trying to read each other’s minds.