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: My Frisky Bitz Bring All the Cats to the Yard

Normally Fridays are reserved for politics, but this week threatened to send me into a tailspin, so it’s Possum Living instead. My biggest and most challenging goal for 2018 is to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. When I am stressed, depressed, or anxious, I have a bad habit of either eating compulsively or spending too much, and I’m drawing the line. There are less destructive ways to cope. And I’ve found one.

First, let me tell you my successes.

  • I survived the State of the Union without feeling compelled to spend money or eat things that I shouldn’t. I was really proud of myself. I was anxious, tense, scared, stressed, but I didn’t make bad decisions.
  • I passed on a deal for a book that I wanted. It was a sweet deal, too, but I sent the email to the trash folder without blinking.
  • I made a trip to Lowe’s for work, and I walked right past the sick plant section, even though I could see they had two Norfolk Island Pines that needed rescuing. I didn’t even look at the price. That was my hardest challenge. Plants are a weakness.
  • I have become more comfortable with being a little hungry during the day. I haven’t panicked as if I would NEVER EAT AGAIN. You can laugh, but some part of my twisted brain thought/thinks it is true.
  • My muffin-top has shrunk a bit.
  • I signed up for a 1/2 marathon.

So let me introduce you to the thing that is filling in the blanks for me. Neko Atsume.

The premise is simple. You download the free app, and you get a yard, a food bowl, and some cheap cat food. The goal is to attract cats to your yard. There are a gajillion of them. After they leave your yard, they leave fish behind as a thank you. Some of the fish are silver, but some are gold, (what you’d normally pay money for). You use the fish to buy items in the store – everything from fancy food to new toys to try to lure rarer cats to the yard. I’ve played it for a week-and-a-half, and I love it. It’s adorable, it allows me to make some purchases in their little store, set goals, develop a strategy for meeting those goals. It’s SO MUCH FUN!

On Tuesday, instead of choking down cookies or surfing Amazon, I checked in on my cats. I rearranged the furniture. I made sure the kitties were fed. And I didn’t worry. Or stress.

Kittehz! This is the original yard. The cat with his back to me cracks me right up. Isn’t that just like a cat?

The cats filter in and out at will, and the most fun in the morning is checking in to see who dropped by during the night. Only 5 cats can occupy the space at a time, so it’s a good idea to maximize the area by purchasing the items that are likely to bring in the most gold fish. It only takes 180 gold fish to expand the yard to hold more cats to bring more fish to buy more yard to hold more cats… And so on it goes. It may seem silly or pointless, but it’s working for me.

Different kittehz, and see how the little black one wore itself out playing?

I saved, I strategized, I read all the online tips, and I expanded my yard. Was it all I had hoped, Oh, yeah!

This is the yard and the inside of the house. The fat white cat on the grass is Tubbs. Most people hate him. I haven’t seen him often enough to be anything but amused by his chubby countenance.

The kitty condo holds up to 5 cats, which brings the total of cats at one time to 13!

I am late to this game. Lots of people discovered it before I did, but better late than never. I don’t know why it works, or even for how long it will work, but I’m okay with it. I’ll take what I can get, and if it quits working, I’ll find something new. I’ll make it to good health and a happier bank account one day at a time, one kitteh at a time.

What ways have you found to help manage stress? Have your methods evolved over time?

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!