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.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.

Needs:

  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.

Wants:

  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!

 

How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

A Brave New Year

Everybody makes resolutions. Some people are even all clever and make resolutions NOT to make resolutions, thus proving we can’t get away from this tradition/trend. I’m no exception. This year, I’m going in big. Go big or go home, right? Actually, it’s cold outside. Going home sounds not-so-bad at the moment… Just kidding.

2016 was a dumpster fire. I said there was no possible way that 2017 could be worse than that, which 2017 took as a personal challenge. It was not a good year overall. But you know what? That’s partly my fault. I am not going to spend this brand, spanky new year sitting passively in the passenger’s seat. 2018 is my year of being brave.

This year, 2018, I am going to:

  • Learn to knit. I don’t know a whole lot of people in person who knit, so I am REALLY going to have to go to the interwebs for this one. I have never learned anything from Youtube before, except to pee BEFORE watching an episode of Bad Lip Reading, so this will be an adventure. And for some reason, it makes me a little nervous. But if I practice knitting for a year, I’ll get decent, right?

  • Breed my dart frogs. I have a bunch of them at work. Three different species. And none of them have bred. I have done everything recommended, and I have gotten to the point of getting them in condition and getting them to call, but so far, no luck. If you have bred them before, hit me up. I gotta know what I need to do differently.

Why you little dudes take a vow of chastity?

  • I am going to put my interest in plants to use. I am going to grow some things to sell at the local Farmer’s Market this summer. I can’t stop myself from growing plants. It brings me joy and energy. If I am stressed, I can soothe my spirit by checking up on a cinnamon tree or a root peeking out of a fig cutting. And since I have no self-control where it comes to growing stuff, I can maybe share my joy with others. And make a little cash. To buy more plants…
  • I am going to learn how to make saagwala at home. I love Indian food. I have attempted curry, and I’m good at the recipes I have. Now it’s time to learn saag.
  • I am going to vote in any election that pops up. It’s my civic responsibility, and I’m going to take it seriously.
  • Call my representatives when there are issues I am concerned about. Which is, like always.
  • Add ALL my reps’ numbers to speed dial so I can leave them messages in all of their offices. I currently only have one number each in my phone.
  • Produce 2 pieces, either short story or essay,  to submit somewhere for publication. This means re-learning how to write a short story. Eek! But it’s time to start building my wall of rejections. Or acceptance, but it’s the rejections that make us stronger, right? I am gonna be STRONG!
  • Actually submit these pieces. This is me closing some loopholes.

And here’s the big one. The one that is the biggest change in my life. Are you ready? Am I ready?

  • I am going to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. I read a book by Dolly Freed called “Possum  Living.” It’s a non-fiction book by an 18-year-old. She and her dad spent 3 years living like possums (not eating them!). They ate what was around them – raised chickens in the cellar for meat, raised gardens, saved money however they could. They spent about $1500 a year. Even in 1978, that was chump change. And her motto when it came to buying things was “Not now, maybe later.” That’s my mantra for 2018. I’ll unpack this whole goal in a separate blog post, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress throughout the year. A surprising amount of planning goes into inaction, really. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. It’s just a few minutes long and worth a watch!

How do you plan to make 2018 your lap dog? Inspire me!

Looking For the Joy

It has been a while, friends. Two months. I know this because two days after my last post, my department suffered an unspeakable tragedy. Two months. And I still can’t speak of it. Not yet. Looking at the image on Time’s website, I can barely breathe. The snake I am holding in the photo died the next day despite our best efforts. Such a stupid phrase, really.  Despite our best efforts. As if we would give an animal in our care less than our best. The snake I was training on in my last post is gone. And it’s hard.

Moving on for the moment. Because I have to. The last couple of months has been a series of tests and more tests and inspections and questions and answers we don’t even have, and if I focus on it too hard, I’ll never be able to get out of bed. So I am looking for the good. Because it’s always there if I look. When I get to feeling sorry for myself, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of despair. So I am choosing good today.

Here’s what’s good in my life, what brings me joy. The little things that make every day worthwhile. Click to enlarge and to read the captions.

There are other things, too, things that are not possible to capture in a photograph. The zoo guests who stop us in our work and tell us how sorry they are for our loss, the people who come each week as volunteers to help meet Al’s need for attention. My daughter, upon learning her cousin didn’t have an officiant for her upcoming wedding, takes it upon herself to become ordained online. She is now a card-carrying, ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That’s right. The Girl-child is now a Pastafarian. Our kids inherit our eyes, our hair, and our genetic garbage. It brings me great joy that mine has also inherited my off-beat sense of humor. And she’s available to perform weddings if you’re looking to get hitched. Who wouldn’t want to go to a wedding where the keepsake is a package of Ramen noodles?

What brings you joy today?

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?

Goals For The New Year

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

In 2016 my goal is to:

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

    resolutions, writing, new years, cats

    But… so cute…

  • And fewer of these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    humor, writing, zoo

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

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

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

Missing That Last Oxer: A Review

horses, review, Learning to Fall, Anne Clermont

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

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

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

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

horse, review, book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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