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?

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What. Ever.

Today’s Daily Post prompt is “Agile.” Aaaand, I was stuck. Agile? I have the grace of a drunk badger. I can climb like a monkey at work, and I have to in order to reach some of my exhibits, but I have taken some hard spills. And with the exception of a pinkie toe a few weeks ago*** I haven’t broken any bones. And that which does not kill me is proof that I don’t have osteoporosis. So yes, I’m a tough nut to crack, but I’m not agile.

Helpers. The Caiman Lizard climbs to the top of his exhibit and sits on the edge to supervise my work. I call him Visa because he is everywhere I want to be. His perch here is 8ft off the ground.

My best friends at work? I write about them a lot, but they’re not so agile, either.

Eastern Box Turtle hatchling. He says “I carry my house around on my back. I don’t need to be agile, too.”

My best friends have shells, so I don’t hold their lack of agility against them. My snakes are agile. And I do love snakes. But this isn’t a post about snakes.

Piebald Ball Python – a pet snake in my house. So cute. He’ll be agile one day.

The only thing about me that can slide up and down with the fluidity of a first chair trombone is my frickin’ mood. This morning, my brain is in overdrive. I got up, and all was well. And then…

It snowed! YAY!!!

Wait. I can’t get to work without a ride. I’m snowed in. ARRRGH!

But a snow day at home with the kids? Snowball fights and long walks with the dogs? Awww!

But my Dart Frogs need spraying or their eggs will dry out. THEY WILL DIIIIIIEEEE!

calling frogs

Boss man said he can mist the eggs. Whew!

The Padawan has been sneaking food downstairs, and now I have to ground him for the day, and it’s a snow day so I will have to deal with his crappy mood ALL DAY, and when will he ever learn, but he also just finished the essay that isn’t due until next week, and it’s 2 pages longer than the minimum, and I am a terrible mother for punishing a good student, but then if I don’t, he will never learn, and I am a TERRIBLE MOTHER! And also a terrible writer. That was  one hell of a run-on sentence.

And then the husband brought me coffee. And I might weep with gratitude.

But then the Little Kid Formerly Known as Squish has decided that I can be convinced to let him buy more Nerf blasters and darts. We have an arsenal of these stupid things. No! TAKE  NO FOR AN ANSWER, OR I AM GOING TO THROW EVERY NERF BLASTER WE OWN INTO THE SINKHOLE BEHIND THE HOUSE!

But there’s caramel hot chocolate.

AND MORE NERF BLASTERS! AND THE KID WON’T LET GO OF THE CAT! AND MY ANXIETY IS CHEWING ON THE INSIDE OF MY SKULL!

But kitties.

Bellatrix has the right idea on a snow day!

AND THE KID IS BEGGING ME TO RENT A BOB SLED!

But now he’s found a cardboard box to sled in. Isn’t he creative? I love that kid and his enthusiasm for life!

BUT WHAT IF HE GETS KILLED?! OR MAIMED? AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT?!!! I am a terrible mother.

But he’s going outside to play by himself. Isn’t it great that he can entertain himself outside when so many kids these days just sit in front of the television and play video games?

THE KID JUST EMPTIED ALL MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS INTO THE FLOOR, SO HE COULD TAKE THE BOX TO SLED IN, AND NOW I MIGHT DIE OF A RAGE-INDUCED ANEURYSM!

But look at me! I can SPELL aneurysm without spell-check! Look at me! I’m an unstable genius!

BUT NOW THE KID IS TALKING ABOUT HOW HE MIGHT DIE OUTSIDE, AND HE JUST MIGHT, AND I SUCK AT MOTHERING!

I can write. Writing soothes me. I enjoy it, and it sets me to rights. I could do a Daily Post prompt…

The Daily Post prompt is “Agile.” Well, crap. My head hurts.

 

*** Pinkie toe injury – I broke my toe by dropping a remote control on it. Because I am smooth like that.

Doing Nothing Sure Does Take a Lot of Planning!

My new goal to buy absolutely nothing I don’t need comes at a good time. I’ve got a kid in college, an old car, a new dog roughly the size of a grizzly bear. Not buying crap will be a good thing. But it will be a challenge. Where do I even start? The first order of business is to cut myself off from advertising. That meant closing the door on all those wonderful companies I have invited into my inbox. I had to unsubscribe from:

  • Panera – (shockingly the hardest. I am not even quite sure that I am unsubscribed. Spinning circle of death. But if I mark them as spam, I’ll teach Gmail to route those to the junk folder.
  • Fandango – I almost never go to movies unless it’s something big – like Star Wars, so this isn’t a heartbreak. I can catch movies on DVD next year or on Netflix.
  • Funko – I am seriously in love with Funko Pop! figures. I collect most of the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Stranger Things items. But not this year. Maybe next year.
  • Squishable – This website sells the most ridiculous and wonderful stuff toy thingies. I have two. That is all I need. SO cute. So sweet. But no.
  • Target – I unsubscribed from them a while ago because they were spamming me to death! Two or three emails PER DAY! Bye, Felicia!
  • Lemuria Books – I ordered a signed copy of THUG before it was released, and now it’s a treasure. But I don’t have room for tons of books.
  • Verdant Tea – I think I bought something from them once as a gift? I don’t remember. I don’t drink tea. I drink the blood of virgins. And coffee.
  • PayPal – I use them as my primary for online purchases because I can dispute them if the seller turns out to be shady. I will still use Paypal for necessary purchases, but I don’t need the marketing. Also, their algorithms have been drinking. They sent me a link to deals on diamond rings. Yo, dudes, it’s no secret that I dig through poop for a living. What part of that says diamond to you?
  • Hot Topic – Don’t judge. Tons of sweet Stranger Things and Harry Potter merch.
  • Box Lunch – Same.
  • Artscow – a photo gift site that I used a great deal in the past. But their prices have gone up so much that they are unaffordable (like, final cost is now 200% what it was two years ago). This one was a tough goodbye. So many memories, so much business done with this site.
  • Loot Crate – a monthly crate subscription to sci-fi/fantasy stuff. I like sci-fi/fantasy, and I love surprises, so Loot Crates appeal to me. Maybe next year.
  • Loot Vault – cheap, cheap sci-fi/fantasy merch. One of the few business that still offers NEW Firefly goodies.
  • Japan Crate – Like the other “crates,” it’s a monthly subscription for themed surprises. I love such things, but I never ordered. Came close a time or two, which is another reason why they are off my list. I can’t be tempted by cute toys and  tasty snacks.
  • GameStop – this was one I subscribed to because it has a rewards card. They have a few exclusive items a year I was interested in.
  • Poo-pourri – If you’ve ever met people who were all, like, “My poop don’t stink!” it’s because they use Poo-pourri. This stuff WORKS.
  • Kool Kid Toys – They have great prices on Funko Pop!, and I ordered from them once. I love Funko, and I do not need this temptation.
  • Passive Juice Motel. I bought Dark Arts coffee from them for the Severus Snape packaging. I don’t need it.
  • Shutterfly– I tried them once. Too expensive. Even with coupons, and the quality isn’t any better than anyone else. But they send me “free book” photo book coupons. Get behind me, Satan!
  • Ebay – How I ever got on this “personalized for you” list, I don’t know. But Ebay is my kryptonite. Need an obscure herpetology text? Check Ebay! Maybe next year.
  • Hallmark – I used to work for them, and I do try to get their Harry Potter ornaments. That’s how they get me – encouraging me to come in and buy more to build points for “free” stuff. This one will be hard. They have beautiful HP ornaments. But not this year. Maybe next.
  • Amazon Prime- this one was physically the hardest to unsubscribe from. It’s a five-click, multi-page process. Exhausting.
  • Joanne Fabric – I am not a serious crafter, so this one was easier. But I do buy some stuff, and if I get into knitting, I will be tempted. “You sure you wanna do that?” “Positive?” “Okay, but, like puppies will die and stuff.” “It’s your call, man. If you’re sure.” “You didn’t mean that.”
  • Tractor Supply – don’t laugh. They offer GREAT dog toys. Lumen-proof toys. Also? TRACTORS!
  • Dave’s Deals – this email is from Dave Ramsey. He offers some of the best financial advice there is, and Dave’s Deals shares the hottest deals on his books. Somehow I think he would applaud my decision to unsubscribe.
  • Booksamillion – I like my local store, I enjoy the events that they host, but I am way too tempted to buy stuff from them. TOO TEMPTED. Because BOOKS!
  • Book bub. This site was the hardest goodbye. It’s a website that shares daily deals on e-books. You can choose your favorite authors and EVERYTHING, and it will give you alerts when a deal comes up for one of them. As my hands get worse, I am relying even more on my e-reader. I only get hard copies of Herpetology books and things heavily reliant on photos(and illustrated Harry Potter because DUH) because my hands cramp pretty quickly just trying to hold open a tree book.

Holy crap! Look at all the businesses that slid their way into my email inbox! It has taken me two days to hunt down and unsubscribe from marketing. It is stunning to look back and see how much I have allowed businesses into my inbox without even thinking. I have set myself up to be hammered by advertising because I wanted a coupon, or I was hoping for a good deal, or just because I signed up for a loyalty card and didn’t check the box that disallowed marketing emails. Some of the temptation is gone, or it will be in a few weeks.

What stays:

Kroger – They are my store. I get good service and decent prices. I’m good at ignoring deals that I don’t need at the grocery store. For now. And also? Friday Freebies. It’s a thing! Every Friday they release a new freebie deal. You don’t have to buy anything in order to get it, just download the coupon. It’s a good way to try new things.

Snapfish – Their photo products are excellent, and they offer numerous coupons via email. Good coupons. Not quite as inexpensive as Artscow used to be, but affordable, good quality, and FAST.

Netgalley – This website offers Advance Reader Copies of upcoming books. I don’t usually meet publisher requirements to receive them, but when I do, these books are FREE, and if I read one that is a real treasure, I can add it to my Christmas wishlist. Yeah, my family shops from lists. They make life SO much simpler. I recommend.

Union Avenue Books – They are a local brick-and-mortar, independently owned and operated, often imitated but never duplicated bookstore. They offer events, like FUN events, book signings, etc. And I don’t get an email more than once a week. I may decide later that they are too much temptation, but for now, I’m keeping them.

 

 

 

 

I May Not Survive 2018.

It’s the second day of the New Year,  and I am pretty sure the universe is trying to kill me. I made myself some goals, and goals are a good thing. One of my unwritten resolutions is to be a more positive person in 2018. I am quite determined. And I am pretty sure I heard the universe say “Hold my beer and watch this!”

I went in to work yesterday. I know. New Year’s Day and all, but I work in a zoo. Al’s gotta eat. And it’s not like I party all night. Nah, I was in bed by 9, asleep by 10. If I want to see the ball drop, I can catch it on Youtube. How can I not go in and see this face?

    My favorite picture I have ever taken of my boy.

I say I went in to work. More correctly, I TRIED to go in to work. On the way there:

  • my car started to overheat
  • I realized a coolant hose was leaning, so I pulled over to the shoulder of the interstate.
  • I did more swearing that I meant to as I watched cars swerve over the line and nearly hit me, even though traffic was to merge into THE OTHER LANE.
  • I figured out I had coolant in the car, so I added some, but…
  • the battery had died due to the severe cold (11F plus windchill)
  • I was wearing shorts.

It took about a half hour before husband could come and retrieve my frozen behind and haul me the rest of the way in It took an hour for my feet to feel like feet again. My day went fine at work. I got some things done, so yay. But I was positive! Go, me! Instead of thinking that 2018 sucks already, quitting my job, and ordering more cats off the internet, I thought “Maybe 2018 is my year of solving problems, of growing stronger and more confident in my abilities.

Then I came home.  And I broke my toe. I didn’t get it x-rayed because there’s nothing to be done with tiny pinky toes except to tape them to their next-door neighbor, but it is purple and blue, and if you touch it, I might accidentally punch you. But it’s just a toe, right? A little tape and bottle of Ibuprofen, and all better. Little toe, littler problem.

I wish I had a good story, like I was fighting ninjas, or practicing mixed martial arts, or I kicked a wall in a rage. But no. I dropped a remote control on it. Our first real TV in, like, 9 years. See? I have been saying all along that television is harmful. Believe it.  TV will break your bones. So anyhow. Toe is taped.  It’s something to laugh about.

And then we come to this morning.

  • Outside spigot A was frozen because someone didn’t leave it running. I won’t say who that was for the sake of marital harmony, but it wasn’t me.
  • Outside spigot B was also frozen. Spousal unit unfroze.
  • Spousal unit let car warm up so he could take me to work.
  • Car ran out of gas. Cars without gas do not take you to work. They sit there and wait to be kicked with my good foot.
  • Spigot A refroze, and the only thing I had with which to unfreeze it was. my. coffee.
  • In the unfreezing process, spigot A sprayed me up and down.
  • My pants froze to my legs

For my safety, I gave up, came inside, put on my pajama pants. I am hiding now. 2018 is coming for me. Don’t tell it where I am.

I can’t bear to look!

 

 

*My family motto is “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

My Husband Is Trying To Kill Me

It might make me sound paranoid, but I am pretty sure my husband is trying to kill me.  And it’s not paranoia if it’s true, right?

I really thought it would be one of the cats who took me out. Bellatrix takes test-bites of my nose at night to see if I’m dead yet, and Ravenclaw eviscerates everything.

It started out simply enough. Husband bought one of those plug-in air fresheners. It was fine at first. And by first, I mean for about fifteen seconds. Then my eyes began to water, and my nose felt like I’d been snorting thumbtacks.*** I might be allergic. I unplugged the thing without comment and went about my day.

When I got up the next morning, I thought someone had put a pillow over my head. I kind of wish they had. I slithered out of bed and tried to sniff the thing out. I found it in the hallway, unplugged it, and hid it on a bookcase shelf. By afternoon, the whole house once again smelled like death covered in flowers. I unplugged it and put it on the window sill behind the curtain.

The next day I came home from work, and husband had clearly tried to compromise. He had replaced the hateful fragrance with pumpkin spice. At least that’s what the label said. More like cloves roasted over the flames of hell. I ripped the thing out of the wall and screamed “Why do you HATE ME? unplugged and hid it on top of the bookcase.

And so it continues. He plugs, I unplug. He plugs, I cry. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I get it. He wants to house to smell welcoming and inviting for the guests we never have. But now he has taken to hiding the things. They look just like the motion detector lights we have for when I’m stumbling out of bed in the middle of the night to pee  checking on the kids in the dark. It sometimes takes me ten minutes to find which outlet holds the little offender.

It’s bad enough that my nose and eyes burn, but I think I am losing brain cells. This is where I draw the line. Already I could hide my own Easter eggs, and I can’t remember how old I am without calling my mom. I can’t afford to lose what little I have left.

“Oh, but Heather,” you say. “He’s not trying to kill you with an air freshener.” And you’d be right. Because’s now there’s not an air freshener, there’s TWO! Twice the fragrance, twice as many brain cells withering to dust. I should never have taken out a life insurance policy. Once you’re worth more dead than you are alive, it’s time to start sleeping with one eye open.

But it’s okay. Two can play at that game. If it’s open season on bringing home something that sends our partner screaming into the streets, I’m buying him a tarantula. This is going to be good.

 

***PSA – Kids, don’t snort thumbtacks. It might be what the cool kids are doing, but you’re better than that.

How To Apologize Online

Your comprehensive guide to issuing an apology when you have upset someone online, be it Facebook, Twitter, or an email to dear Aunt Sally. Study it. Memorize it. There will be a test later.

Apologize? Me? Heh.

  1. Be online.
  2. Make a mistake. This is not difficult. If you have covered #1, you are guaranteed to say something stupid/misinformed/offensive.
  3. Become aware of your mistake. This one isn’t all that hard, either. If a dozen experts (or even ONE) on a subject presents a counter-argument, there’s a chance you are wrong. Maybe do research at this point.
  4. Grow a pair. Pair could refer to whatever thing you associate with courage. Could be kittens for all I care. Just get you some courage.
  5. Say these words: “You were right.” or “I was wrong.” Use these phrases together for additional sincerity.
  6. Also say these words: : “I am sorry.” Another variation could be “I apologize.” Yes. This step is necessary. I know. You already said #5. I know. Just say you’re sorry.
  7. Demonstrate that you are, in fact, sorry. Do accomplish this task, you should say, well, nothing. Don’t say anything at all.
  8. Continue to say nothing. I know. You just wanted to explain tha-

Just stop it. Seriously. Stop talking. Stop trying to make everyone understand how wonderful you are and how you are being misunderstood. Just stop talking.

9. Say even less than you did in #8. Remember #5? You were stupid/offensive/misinformed. You were. You. I’m looking at you. I know you said sorry. But sorry doesn’t fix stuff immediately. If I eat your pet canary, a simple apology doesn’t make Tweety any less dead. There will be some grief, some anger, perhaps a tiny little funeral to arrange, and it’s likely you don’t want to see me again for a while. Maybe not ever. Some stakes are higher than others.

10. Make your peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like you. Actually, this should be #1, but it’s the one we all tend to blow off, so I buried it here so you wouldn’t ignore it. I’m tricky like that. The hardest part about this one is understanding that in this case, people are in the not-liking phase of you because of something you did. Ouch. Reflect on it. Sit with it.

11. Read the responses. Not to your apology.  I mean the responses to your original mistake. Understand not just that people ARE upset, but get to the heart of WHY. If you don’t make an effort to learn the why, you are pretty much guaranteed to repeat your error, and that’s bad. This part’s hard because the instinct is to argue more or to tuck our tails and RUN. Do not attempt to answer until you are strong enough to respond ONLY with the words “I understand,” “I am sorry,” “You are right,” or “I was wrong.” You will feel like your brain is on fire and your eyeballs are melting, but I promise you will live.

12. Come to grips with the most painful realization in the world: Not everyone cares  what you think.

13. Do better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff My Kids Will Never Understand

Now I really do sound like my mother. But this isn’t a rant about the good old days and how the world is headed South in a Longaberger basket. That would be my great-grandmother, and I’m not turning into her (yet). I’m learning that few things make me feel older than saying “Well, back when I was a kid…” and having them stare at me, slack-jawed, eyes glazing over like a monkey presented with a computing problem. As if the minutiae of my early years isn’t riveting. It’s just kind of a shame that all of my vast life experience is fading into oblivion. Here’s the weird stuff I remember:

  • Gum. Lots of it! In the 80s, bubblegum was a HUGE thing. Our neighborhood convenience store had a 2ftx8ft section DEVOTED to gum. And I’m not talking the stuff the old ladies enjoyed in church a half-stick at a time, either. I’m talking bubblegum. Every imaginable flavor. Strawberry and banana, sure, but also blueberry and cherry and a variety of fruit punches. Bubble Yum Fruit Punch was the best ever. Gum achieved its nadir with chocolate mint flavor. Ugh. The market never recovered.
  • Because bubblegum bandages aren’t gross at all. Photo credit: Dinosaur Dracula

  • Records were the cheapest form of recording. If you wanted the album on a more portable medium, the cassette tape cost about 30% more.
  • Having to buy an entire record for one song.
  • Requiring an elaborate set-up to convert record to cassette tape. This exercise involved special cables and moving furniture around to get all the components to connect to one another.
  • Hating DJs for talking over the song you were trying to record.
  • Song Hits Magazine – It had the LYRICS, man! THE LYRICS! To the cool songs! So we knew what Cyndi Lauper was actually saying.
  • Benetton and Swatches – and don’t forget the Swatch guard!
  • Halloween, Christmas, Valentine, Last-Day-of-School PARTIES!  Like, at school. With candy and cupcakes and stuff.
  • Film strips. And the substitute teacher who was ALWAYS one frame behind.
  • Reel-to-reel movies in the classroom. In elementary school, we watched The Cat and the Hat and The Red Balloon once a year.
  • Sticker collections– mine is quite impressive. Yes, I still have it. Shut up!
  • Seeing a movie in the theater or not seeing it at all. Because once it left the theater, it was GONE. No purchasing it a few months later. Because there would be nothing to watch it ON! No DVD player, no VCR. Not even laser disc. This tidbit blows my students’ minds.
  • The Wizard of Oz came on once a year – And every year I thought the movie was broken because it started out in black and white.
  • Three channels – and all of them signed off at midnight with the flag.
  • Garbage Candy that came in an actual tiny garbage can!

Why don’t they still make this? I liked the fish skeletons the best! I think I have to do a favorite candy edition because we had the best candy!

  • Floppy Discs – It’s funny that the “save” icon is a picture of something most kids have never even seen in real life. And remember when they were actually FLOPPY?
  • Cutting edge computers with memory measuring in the kilobytes. I didn’t say ALL the old days were good ones!
  • Pong did not involve beer.
  • Saturday morning cartoons – the ONLY time cartoons were available. No Cartoon Network,no Disney Channel. Cartoons started at 6am with the old black-and-whites and ran all the way until noon with O.G. Readmore. He’s a reading kind of cat.
  • After-school TV specials – I always learned something. Or pretended to. These came about right around the time it became apparent that television was becoming a babysitter.
  • Suntan lotion and suntan oil – but no sunscreen. I had more blistering sunburns as a child than my dermatologist would like to think about because the only thing to prevent sunburn was zinc oxide, and only the dweebs used that crap.
  • Lawrence Welk – I could never WAIT for this show to be over so I could watch Hee Haw. Hey, I never said I had great TV taste as a kid.
  • Cracker Jacks – yeah, they tasted like garbage, but they had a PRIZE! And it was sometimes a TOY!
  • Cereal – like gum, cereal had its hey day. Anybody else remember when literally EVERY box on the shelf except for the high-fiber crap had something free in the box? And remember when Cocoa Krispies was represented by Tusk the Elephant?

That’s it for this edition. Now, get off my lawn, you darned kids!

What are you sorry to see go?

Notes From the Zookeeper: My Day in Pictures and a Mind-blowing video

The Introverted Activist: Things Will Get Better

I’m still tired. Are you still tired? But are you in it to win it? Yeah, me, too. Rah, rah, and all that. Did I mention I am tired?

But things are going to get better. Maybe they already are. 45’s first pick to be National Security Advisor is *poof* and the second pick doesn’t want the job. What happened to Flynn? Depends on who you ask. Fired? Quit? Abducted by aliens? Who cares? He’s gone. And the Labor Secretary? Remember him? Whatshisface Pudzer? The guy who would like to do away with a minimum wage and automate everything? He’s gone, too. And the person who has been nominated to replace him might actually be qualified for the job. Or maybe the bar has been set so low by this administration that a rabid puggle seems qualified.

I made a thing. It’s a Trumpertantrum drinking game, designed to make this administration more entertaining.

did flynn talk to Russia

But then I realized it could also be deadly. I thought I could suggest switching to water after every 2 drinks, but then there’s still hyponatremia to worry about. So I thought about milk shakes. But is there a pancreas in the world that can handle THAT much sugar? Diet soda? Nope again. An overdose of artificial sweetener can be deadly. So then I considered deep breaths instead of drinks, but then everyone would hyperventilate and pass out, maybe hitting a head on the floor and dying. And I can’t be responsible for that, so instead of drinking each time he hits one of these milestones, think a happy thought or pet a puppy. Nobody ever passed out from petting a puppy. Just be careful not to rub all its hair off. It’s going to be a long four years.

Calls and protests work, and not just for this whole train wreck of an administration. In case you have never heard of Bresha Meadows, at the age of 14, young Bresha shot and killed her abusive father. She was sent to an adult prison. An adult prison. Remember Michael Carneal? He murdered 3 students and injured 5 others at his high school in 1997. He was sent to a juvenile facility until he turned 18. But Bresha has been held in an adult prison. Until recently. Letters, protests, and phone calls put enough pressure on prosecutors that she was moved a few weeks ago to a juvenile mental health facility. Her family has to pay the cost of her treatment, so there’s a link where you can donate if you are so inclined. But she can go outside, she is with other kids, and she can get the help she deserves.

What I did this week:

I wrote a lot of letters. A lot of them. To Republicans, to Democrats. I went to a huddle at my friend’s house. We encouraged each other, and we made plans for the next four years. That feels like a long time, but we can do it.

what are people doing besides marching

This is what democracy looks like. And friendship.

I made an action plan for each week. I am going to make 5 calls a week and write 3 letters. I wrote 5 letters this week, so I am ahead of the game. I even wrote one to President Bannon.

The call I made to my Senators this week was focused on 2 things – keeping Bannon out of the situation room and keeping the Affordable Care Act intact until there is a decent replacement (and insisting that the replacement include those with preexisting conditions – an aside here, I knew a woman who didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant at her new job until she qualified for health insurance. She was 8 weeks pregnant when she got the job, and so was 20 weeks along before she went for her first prenatal appointment because she knew otherwise insurance wouldn’t cover it because her pregnancy was a preexisting condition. No prenatal care until it was essentially too late to prevent most issues. Do Republicans really want to go back to those days?)

I made plans to attend the local march on April 15 to protest Trumpertantrum’s refusal to show his tax returns.

I made plans to attend some Nashville events, too, later in spring.

I made a list of my local representatives at the state level. I am going to become quite familiar with them and their work because I have letters and calls to make there, too.

And I took some time away. Because I’m tired.

This week, why not write a letter yourself. Or show up at a local office and share your wants with your Congress person’s staff? Write a letter sharing your story and your expectations for affordable care. You can do it! We can do it! It’s already working, friends. We’re pushing a ball uphill, but we’ve learned this week that it isn’t likely to roll back over and crush us!

Need more ideas? Check here. And visit here for a breakdown of enrollment in Affordable Care Act by congressional district. Share what you find. A study this week revealed that around 30% of Americans don’t know that ACA and ObamaCare are the same thing. Republicans successfully obfuscated the issue by using the term “ObamaCare,” so be kind to anyone you encounter who might have been confused. They aren’t alone. Raise your hand if you have never been sucked in by rhetoric. We’ve all been there, done that.

Face-palm of the week: Good ol’ Betsy “Keep Bears Out Of Public Schools” DeVos is doing a spanking good job in her new post. Wait. There is no spanking in public school. A time-outing good job? Whatever. Anyway, she managed to not only misspell the name of civil rights activist, W.E. B. DuBois, she misspelled the apology, as well. Go, team! Dear Betsy, how do you spell “derp?”

Need a laugh? Download this awesome app. It’s called “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again.” And it does this:

What did you get up to this week? Have a favorite hashtag you have been involved with? Share it in the comments.

Notes From the Zookeeper: Field Work

You guys! Guess what! Go on, guess! No, I’m not pregnant. Thanks for that, though, sj. Guess again! No, I am not getting a pony. My surprise is NOT as good as a pony. Now I’m disappointed. Thanks. Oh, now I’m supposed to just tell you? Fine. Whatever.

Today, maybe even as you read this, I am going to do a little field work! I haven’t had a ton of opportunities yet. I have been to the bog a couple of times to check nests for the zoo’s ongoing bog turtle project, but that one started years before I joined the zoo (or even graduated college!). I came in just as the actual field work was winding down, so there was not much point in training me. Today, though, I have been invited to travel along with my lead keeper, Stephen, as he pulls and checks traps for his big project. He’s studying mudpuppies, and we’re going to catch some. Hopefully.

what is a mudpuppy

If you’re thinking we’re out to catch one of these, you might be a little incorrect. Just a little. We’re looking for salamanders.

He believes he has found a new species, so after filling out mountains of paperwork to get permission, he has been setting live traps for the animals in many different places. He sets traps and checks them daily for a week or so out of each month. He is hoping to determine that this is indeed a new species, or a previously described species that has never been found in the current range, which will yield information about stream ecology. Any animals that are captured will surrender a tiny bit of DNA for gene sequencing before they are fitted with a PIT tag. Basically, a tiny little transponder that is the same kind of microchip inserted into a dog or cat for identification should they get lost, is inserted under the animal’s skin. This chip will let him know if the animal is a new individual, or if it is a recapture. The Hiawasee is a pretty big place, so finding a recapture is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but Stephen has already recaptured one. This could shed some light on movement within a territory at some point, so a recapture is still a win.

So tomorrow, I meet him at an undisclosed, top-secret secret meeting location. Like maybe the Bat Cave. Or the zoo.  I am not at liberty to say.

Oh, man! The only thing that could make fieldwork cooler is if we could meet at the Bat Cave! Maybe Stephen really IS Batman. But even if he were, I couldn't tell you.

Oh, man! The only thing that could make fieldwork cooler is if we could meet at the Bat Cave! Maybe Stephen really IS Batman. But even if he were, I couldn’t tell you.

Then we’re going to drive to his trapping site, which is about an hour away. We’ll jump in his boat and paddle out to pull the traps. If there are mudpuppies in them (please, oh, please!), he’ll show me how to take genetic samples, record weights and measurements, and how to insert a PIT tag. Then we’ll let the little rascal go and move on to the next trap. A good time will be had by all.

I won’t have my camera because water + clumsy = disaster. So I will draw pictures for you next week to show you what I saw. In the meantime, I pack. What do real scientists take on trips into the field?

  • Snacks – We’ll be gone several hours, and no food makes one zookeeper very cranky.
  • A change of clothes – we don’t want to expose our captive zoo animals to diseases and parasites they may have poor resistance to, so we will change clothes from head to toe before returning to care for our animals. You’d be surprised what kind of yuck can be carried in on shoes.
  • A second change of clothes – for when I drop the first set in the water
  • Cool tunes – we have an hour of driving each way, and we need something to listen to. I’m thinking “Hamilton,” or maybe “Les Mis.” Anybody know the official soundtrack of field work?
  • Book or e-reader – again, an hour drive each way. I have to do something, right?
  • Barf bag – I get sick when I read in the car. But 2 hours seems like a lot of time to NOT read.
  • Water shoes – we’re going to be on the river, and maybe IN it. Most likely in it. Because it’s me.
  • Water-proof notebook – who knew they made such a thing, but they do.
  • Towel – Because if when I fall in the water, it would be nice to be able to dry off a bit. 50 degrees is chilly even when you’re DRY!
  • Water wings – Field work is sink or swim, and I am allergic to sinking to the bottom of the river and dying.
  • Plastic-coated form of ID – Because when I get swept away in the current, hit my head on a rock, and forget who I am, the authorities will know whom to call.
  • Adult diaper – The sound of running water + a bladder the size of a Lego brick+ the sheer terror of being in a boat (I had red beans and rice for dinner. What if I lean over to quietly relieve a little, um, pressure, and capsize the canoe?)
  • Rubber duckie- all work and no play, ya’ll

What’s exciting in your world this week?