Maybe Marriage Isn’t So Great After All

So the husband and I have joined a marriage class at our church. It’s a biblically-based Francis Chan study, and there’s a free PDF for anyone who is interested.**  Let me know if the link doesn’t work, and I will see if I can find it for you.

The first chapter is called “Marriage Isn’t That Great,” and I’ve been chewing on that title for the last two weeks. And you know what? They’re kind of right.

Marriage changes everything. Husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. We knew each other well, or at least we thought we did. We were starry-eyed idiots. “I do” turns into “What have I DONE?” and moonlit walks become mortgage payments with the speed of Seabiscuit on crack.

When we were dating, a professor told us that he and his wife knew each other well. “I know my wife will eat the last piece of chocolate cake without telling me,” he said in class one day. “And she knows that I will, too.”

How horrible, I thought. Not only would I leave my beloved the last piece of cake, I would set it out on a plate with his name on it and draw a bunch of hearts around it so that he will know how loved he is. Fast-forward 21 years, and not only do I hide all the good treats in an empty tampon box so he won’t touch it, I don’t even want to share the FIRST piece of a cake. I got a chocolate ganache cake at a cake walk. When husband asked what ganache is, I may have told him it means “antelope testicle.” And he didn’t believe me because 1/4 of the cake was gone the following morning.

Sad antelope. He's sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Sad antelope. He’s sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Marriage is HARD. There’s a reason the expression “The honeymoon is over” exists. When we were dating, the toughest thing we had to agree on was where we were going to eat. Now it’s “Whose turn is it to do dishes/laundry/lunches/grocery shopping?” ***

Dating is a time we put our best foot forward, even while we were planning that trip down the aisle. We used to whisper sweet nothings like “You’re so beautiful!” “I could hold you forever.” “I love you so much, my heart hurts.” Now our whispers are more like “I haven’t pooped in two weeks.””What is that smell? Was that you? Dear God in heaven! See a doctor!” And “I would give you the MOON!” becomes “Another cat? Are you serious? The MOON, woman! I offered you THE MOON! The moon doesn’t use a litter box!”

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Marriage is laundry on the floor, reading when your partner would rather be talking, talking when your partner would rather be reading, paying utilities and mowing the lawn. It’s responsibility. It’s constantly fighting our natural selfish instincts to keep from killing one another in “The Great Covers War.” It’s learning the real meaning of “In sickness and in health,” when you watch your partner develop a potentially debilitating illness. It’s the storm, but it’s also the calm after.

It’s reaching in your lunch bag and finding a surprise package of animal crackers. It’s knowing that he ate some testicle-free ganache cake, but discovering that he also bought a bag of Sweet Tango apples because he ate the last one and he knows they’re your favorite. It’s my heart skipping a beat when he walks in the room, not because he scared me, but because he still looks good to me after all these years. It’s the coming home and finding the kitten you’ve wished for sitting on your pillow after work.

Marriage itself isn’t the easy road. But I’m so glad I’m here, and I know I’ll be okay as long as he and I are on this road together.

It looks like he's up to something, doesn't it?

It looks like he’s up to something, doesn’t it?

** for the record, it loads onto an e-reader as a PDF file, but it reads just fine. My Kobo isn’t very PDF-friendly, but it reads like any other book. Don’t let “PDF” scare you.

*** the answer to this question is usually “mine/mine/mine/probably mine.” What can I say? I’m a slacker.

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.

The Reason I am Not Speaking To My Sister

My sister an I used to get along fine. Not anymore. I quit speaking to her a few days ago. We used to do fun things. We both love Harry Potter. She makes a great Molly Weasley, and we went to the release of the last two books together. Those days are done. Except for Harry Potter. I still love him.

That's butterbeer she is holding. And she even let me have some. But what she did recently is inexcusable.

That’s butterbeer she is holding. And she even let me have some. But what she did recently is inexcusable.

We are all put on this earth for a purpose, I firmly believe that. It is up to us to fulfill it; us and no one else. And that’s what it all comes down to.

She has her gifts, and I have mine. I am a decent photographer, and that’s what I was doing. That was my job, and I took it seriously. I can’t say the same for her. It went fine at first. She did her thing and all, but then suddenly she totally dropped the ball. I mean FOR REAL. I don’t know if she gave up, or if she was bored, or if she was a victim of over-thinking. No idea. I would ask her and find out, but it would involve speaking to her. And I’m not. I believe I mentioned that.

Anyway, I was kind of counting on her to get her part done, and she didn’t. I mean, how hard is it? You put the crystal of power to the vampire’s chest and blow it to smithereens. It’s demon-vanquishing 101, people. I would have done it myself, but, HELLO, I had the camera.  I can’t wield the crystal, anyway. That’s totally her deal. But she didn’t do it

I don’t know why she didn’t. She had no trouble nixing the possessed dog’s head/transistor radio thingy or the old monster with the weird hair, but when she got to that last boogie-man, things kind of fell apart. She dusted the dude with the powder of darkness just fine. And she lit the candle like she’d done it her whole life. But when it came time to seal the deal, she choked. And we both died. So that’s why I’m mad at my sister.

So it may have been a dream, but I’m not sure. I’m not taking any chances. Any Chosen Ones out there who know their way around a Crystal of Power?

My Parenting Philosophy in Three Words

Maybe I’m not such a great parent after all.

My parenting philosophy can be summed up in three words. “Keep Expectations Low.” I need that on a t-shirt. Because I’ve never taken them on vacation (Go ahead and judge me. I am TERRIBLE!), I don’t have to do much to impress the boys. They’re better off that way.

I could drive them around the block and show up at the YMCA, and they’d still think it an exotic vacation if they get to:

  • play video games in bed until 11pm.
  • enjoy cable TV – although Squish learned that having 50 channels doesn’t guarantee that there is something to actually watch. It was a hard life lesson for him.
  • get snacks from a vending machine
  • continental breakfast, whether it boasts a waffle maker or dog turd sandwiches.
  • swim in a pool – and let me tell you, size does not matter. Our motel pool is smaller than the double bed in the motel room, and they still think they are Mr. and Mrs. Howell.
Source: Gilligasisle.com I'll let them argue over which one is Lovey, but neither of them wants to get their hair wet.

Source: Gilligansisle.com I’ll let them argue over which one is Lovey, but neither of them wants to get their hair wet.

One day, maybe we’ll actually get cable at home, and then they will NEVER leave! NAH!

The One Where I Admit I’m Negligent

You heard it here first. I am not a good parent. I let my kids down in a big way.

I’ve never taken my kids on vacation. Like, ever. Not once. The Girl-child is 19, and she’s never been away on vacation. She has been away from home, of course. All the kids have. To grandma’s, to camp, etc. But never away to do fun things for more than a night. Until now. It’s road trip time.

It is for the boys, anyway. The Girl-child is staying home because she has a job. And I have, like, a million pets. We’re hitting the road for St Augustine.

Last night, it all seemed like a good idea, a great one, even. I was so excited. We went to St Augustine as honeymooners 21 years ago, and we loved it so much. There are plenty of places we haven’t been, but if we’re going to leap into vacation, we should go somewhere we know. Or think we know. Or whatever.

In the light of day, the shine has worn off this particular idea. I didn’t go on vacation much as a kid. Why should my kids be spoiled? Also? Kittens. How do I leave this?

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don't deserve her love!

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don’t deserve her love!

This morning,  husband loaded the car with way too much stuff. I will continue packing things into bags until there is nothing left but the bare studs and a few good memories if I am not bodily removed from the premises. The goal was to leave at 7am

6:30 Squish wakes us up

6:40 Finally get out of bed

6:45 Look around for the clothes I laid out last night. I swear they were *right here*

6:50 Find clothes in exactly the spot I left them last night. My bad, husband. I didn’t see them. Don’t look at me like that!

6:55 Learn that husband does not, in fact, like my orange Minions shirt and never has. It’s like our whole marriage has been a lie.

6:56 Begin existential crisis.

7:15 Ignore horn honking in the driveway and check Twitter

7:18 Go out to move car.

7:19 Return to the house to get keys.

7:20 Return to house to get coffee

7:21 Return to house to pee one last time

7:23 Insist that everyone else go pee also

7:35 Get in car

7:36 Return to house to replace kitten who mysteriously appeared in my backpack. I don’t know how she got there, so stop looking at me like that.

7:38 On the road.

The trip was uneventful. Husband found a route that takes 5 fewer hours than our last trip, or maybe new interstates have been constructed in the last 20 years. The only blip was a visit to a benighted McDonald’s with the least attentive servers in history and a child at the table behind us whose shrieks could have peeled the paint off the walls.

We got here in before dark, but I suspect it’s going to be an interesting visit. Instead of a magical stay at a bed and breakfast, we’re at the bad end of town in a motel who lists “toilet” as one of its amenities. I was all excited, but my enthusiasm waned with the daylight. Suddenly it seems like too much work to leave the room.

It’s not all bad. The kids didn’t want to leave the room, either. They opted to send Dad out to bring back a pizza. I’m pretending that it’s a money-saving move and not because I don’t have the energy to fight traffic tonight. Time enough for that tomorrow, right?

I can’t sleep without a kitten chewing on my feet. I do hope that one of the boys is up to the job.

 

Servers So Rude

My actual conversation with a Chipotle server:

So beautiful! Source: Chipotle.com

So beautiful! Source: Chipotle.com

Her: You want anything else on it? Any salsa?

Me: I want guac. I know it’s extra. It’s okay.

Her: There is no guac.

Me: I want guac.

Her: There is no guac.

Me: How can there be no guac?

Her: Because you didn’t buy any. This is your house, Mom.

Sounds like excuses to me.

It's almost like I woke her up to roll my burrito. Oh, wait. I did.

It’s almost like I woke her up to roll my burrito. Oh, wait. I did.

 

Things That Are Better In Pairs

Things in life that are best when they come in a multi-pack:

  • Shoes
I couldn't wear these. I have the balance of a drunk newborn wildebeest.

I couldn’t wear these. I have the balance of a drunk newborn wildebeest.

  • Socks
Buy me these. I needs these. Source

Buy me these. I needs these. Source

  • Cookies. I’ll take two pairs of cookies, thanks. Make that a dozen!
I definitely need these in my life!

I definitely need these in my life!

    • Underwear. Although technically I am not sure I understand the concept of “pair of underwear.” Unless they’re counting the leg holes? Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller

      I don't understand "brief," either.

      I don’t understand “brief,” either.

    • Kittens.
How happy am I? Pretty darned happy!

How happy am I? Pretty darned happy!

 

Never adopt just one kitten when you can have two. I cannot recommend pairs of kittens highly enough. Especially little black ones. They have a harder time finding a home. The adoption organization we got the baby kittens from is the same one who matched us with Pixel and Bellatrix. They run specials on black cats and kittens because they are so hard to place.

Meet Pandora. She’s on the right. We adopted her the day after we got Ravenclaw. It was too hard to leave her behind. In theory, she was to go with the Girl-child to college. In reality, she is so bonded to her sister that I don’t think we can ever separate them. Sorry, Girl-child! Would you perhaps like a pony instead?

 

Don’t have the ability to adopt a cat or kitten? You can still help. Click the PayPal button on Happy Paws’ website to donate. Even $5 buys some cat litter. You can even sponsor the adoption of the cat or kitten of your choice so someone of lower income may be able to take home a best friend for life. No, I am not being paid to advertise. I just think this rescue does a great job!

The Best Question I Have Ever Been Asked

Zookeepers get asked a lot of questions. It’s part of the job, and honestly one of my favorite things.
Yesterday morning I was bent over unclogging a tube in the bog turtle rearing exhibit. I heard a family approach the fence, and the mom began reading the graphics aloud to her young son.

“Looking into this exhibit,  you may be looking into the future of bog turtle conservation…”

The little boy looked at me through the peeking window and said “Are you real?”

I assured him that I was. His eyes got huge as he took the words on the graphics to heart.

“Are you from the future?”

If Santa can break the space/time continuum, why couldn’t a zookeeper? We are made of magic and cat hair.
My forefinger. Check out that expression! the eyes look white, but that's because the pupils are contracted. At night, they dilate, and those eyes are solid black!

My forefinger. Check out that expression! the eyes look white, but that’s because the pupils are contracted. At night, they dilate, and those eyes are solid black!

It’s National Zookeeper Appreciation Week. Have you hugged a keeper yet?

Things I Would Rather Do Than Re-Watch “Secret Life of Pets”

I took Squish to see “The Secret Life of Pets” because I apparently I didn’t learn anything from the whole “Finding Dory” fiasco.

Ravenclaw says save your money. Watch a kitten with a laser pointer instead. She's a harsh critic.

Ravenclaw says save your money. Watch a kitten with a laser pointer instead. She’s a harsh critic.

Things I would rather do than re-watch “The Secret Life of Pets”

  • Scratch my poison ivy (actually, this one is kind of cheating because scratching poison ivy is awesome. At least for the first week).
  • Take a bubble bath with a cat.
  • Read Game of Thrones.
  • Pick my nose.
  • Pick a stranger’s nose.
  • Play Roulette blindfolded with five cups of lemonade and a cup of cat pee.
  • Watch full coverage of the Republican National Convention without a bathroom break. While drinking cat pee.
  • Redecorate my house in Early Hairball.
  • Write an entire blog post with Alpha-Bits cereal.
  • Watch colonoscopy videos in 4-D.
  • Live out the recurring nightmare of walking down the hallway of my high school naked.
  • Misuse punctuation.
  • Listen to “Achy Breaky Heart” scratched out by fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • Kiss a monkey.
  • Give up eating fresh cherries for the rest of my life.
  • Give up eating MoonPies for the rest of my life. Yeah, it was that bad.

 What is the worst movie you have seen this year?

It’s hard to be brave

Kids are weird. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is kind of missing the whole magic of childhood.

Anyway, I’ve lost my share of sleep dealing with odd things.

Padawan_001

The Padawan looking innocent. I assure you, he is not.

This one? He used to get me out of bed to complain that his stuffed shark, Hammer, was singing to him. Don’t suggest that he let Hammer sing him to sleep either. “You don’t understand,” the Padawan would lament, night after night. “He’s singing jazz!” Touché, little man.

And this one?

The Girl-child, back in the day. But not ALL the way back in the day because those photos are on old fashioned negatives.

The Girl-child, back in the day. But not ALL the way back in the day because those photos are on old fashioned negatives.

She used to scream that Sharp Tooth was coming to get her. Sharp Tooth? The T-Rex from that adorable fright-fest, “The Land Before Time?”

So here’s a new one on me.

“There’s a werewolf!”

“Uh, we talked about this before. There’s no such thing as werewolves.”

“I saw one.”

“It’s not a werewolf.”

“WEREWOLF!”

“Where?”

“There!”

“I don’t see it!”

“There! Just now! It moved!”

“I see it. It’s not a werewolf.”

“No, THAT OVER THERE! WEREWOLF!”

“Not.”

“IS!”

“Baby, for the last time, it’s not a werewolf. I know it’s not a werewolf. That’s the dog.”

NOT a werewolf. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

NOT a werewolf. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

“You sure?”

“I’m really, really sure, Ravenclaw.”

I don't think she believes me.

I don’t think she believes me.