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!

The Rest is History

Twelve years ago, I went into a small reptile store that I had found in the Yellow Pages. I told the salesclerk that I wanted an iguana. He spent the next thirty minutes explaining to me exactly why I probably did not want an iguana (they get enormous, can become very aggressive without daily handling, they need specialized lighting) and showing me many alternatives that would be a much better fit for my lifestyle and expectations. And he was right. I had imagined a gigantic, dog-tame lizard wandering around my house like a dinosaur on the prowl without ever considering what the animal actually needed.

I listened to his advice. He recommended a leopard gecko. They didn’t have any at the moment, but that was okay. I could find the right caging, get everything set up, and wait for the day I could take home my lizard. I waited. And waited. It was the wrong season for baby leopard geckos. I already knew it would be worth waiting for. I could trust that this shop would not  sell me something I was not ready for.

 I spent my wait studying books and learning what to look for in a leopard gecko. Some of us search a whole lifetime without success, but I am happy to say that I found the lizard of my dreams.

The prettiest little gecko ever

And in a few months, he turned into this:

I loved this lizard!


After about 8 months, every bit of black had disappeared, leaving him a solid orange. He was my pride and joy. And he needed some friends. Girl friends. All purchased at the same wonderful shop. The employees knew me on sight and were always happy to show me their newest arrivals. They helped me find an incubator so that I could start raising the little critters on my own and gave me solid advice about incubating and working with neonates.

When the Padawan was 2 days old, my first baby geckos hatched. It made an impression on all of us. When my daughter was asked about the exciting new arrival in our house, she talked about the geckos.


Some of my first hatchlings. Aren’t they tiny?


Over the years, I expanded to new and exciting animals. I got my first bearded dragon, a couple of corn snakes, a ball python or two, all of them purchased from my favorite little shop, and most of them bred by the owner.

He had a big sale every year that was like a small reptile show, exhibiting and selling species and color varieties that were hard to come by, giving away free hot dogs and t-shirts. He even brought in the local reptile vet to answer questions for customers and encourage them to get proper vet care when necessary. The prize for the top salesperson was bragging rights. A note was affixed to a tacky blue ceramic baby bootie bank for the next whole year. Legend had it that anyone who won The Blue Shoe three years straight would get a trip to Hawaii. I did that, the note reading “Heather’s shoe forever and ever.”

Yesterday, I worked my last shift at that store. After 23 years of business, the doors are closed for good. Lots of people came in to say goodbye and express their sadness at the store’s leaving. Lots of them admitted that they typically shopped at the big box stores. One customer actually said “I always shop at (insert name of big box store here), but I figured everyone else would shop here because the quality and prices are so much better.” I didn’t know how to respond to that.

I also didn’t know what to say to the customers who used to come in and spend forty-five minutes or more asking questions and getting detailed information about an animal’s requirements only to drive down the street to big box store to purchase the supplies; the big box store whose poorly trained employees don’t always know the proper care of the animals they were selling.

“I always come here for my crickets, though.” they said loyally.

Cricket purchases don’t keep the lights on, friends. If we want to have small business in our community, we need to shop there. If we expect to be able to call on someone knowledgeable to help us when we have a problem, we need to support them financially. Sometimes it means driving a little bit out of our way, sometimes it means having to pay a little more. Is it worth all of that to have a specialty store available to us? I think so.

So thanks for everything, Mike. And I’m still waiting on that trip to Hawaii.