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?

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.

Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

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

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

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

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

best cat litter boxes for odor control

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

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

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

best cat litter boxes for odor control

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

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

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

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

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

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

best cat litter boxes for odor control

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

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

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

best cat litter boxes for odor control

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

And is she entitled yet? You tell me.

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