Stuff I No Longer Care About, and One Thing That I Do

So a few days ago, I wrote about a book that has changed the way I view the world. Read it, practice it, love it, quit caring about stuff that doesn’t matter. To be honest, it’s not easy to let go of the emotional stuff. It’s funny that as a borderline hoarder, going all KonMari on my vast collection of *STUFF* has come more easily to me than not giving a… shall we say “fork.” Point me in the direction of a cluttered dresser, and I can sort, and organize, and spark so much joy that the house nearly catches fire. But not caring? I have taken the book with me everywhere so I can re-read parts and get it stuck in my brain. But when I CAN let go, it’s really so wonderful! I feel unburdened.

That’s the beauty of the “Not Giving A Fork” method. If I miss obsessing over stuff, if that anxiety sparks joy, I can have it back. Here are some things that I decided not to waste any more energy on, at least for now:

  • My weight. This one was surprisingly easy given my decades-long struggle with an eating disorder. I am what I am. I go to the gym now several days a week because I frickin’ LOVE the gym (no joke!), and if I lose weight, fine. If I don’t, that’s okay, too. As long as I am active, that is all that matters.
  • The 2020 presidential election. I will care about it later, but dear God! There is too much going on right now to spend an iota of energy worrying about 2020. I’d like Congress to sort out the Now before moving on to 2020.
  • The economy. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I can’t do anything about it. If I can’t fix it, how does worrying help? I’ll write my representatives, of course. But obsessing until I make myself sick? No can do.
  • Whether my kids eat what I cook. This is a big one because I tend to take it kind of personally. But one has sensory issues, and one gets home from school and eats a big snack because he is starving, so he isn’t really hungry for dinner. Know what this means? I can cook what I like!
  • Whether my clothes match when I go to the gym. I am just going to get sweaty. Might as well start out looking like something the cat dragged in.
  • Grouchy people. I didn’t do anything wrong, so I am not going to shoulder the burden of someone else’s bad mood.
  • The Wall. I’ve let my representatives know exactly what I think about the ridiculousness of such a venture. I’ve done what I can do. Yelling at the radio every time it is mentioned does not do me any good.
  • Understanding all the implications of Brexit. I am nosy, but this issue is just too complicated to spare any extra forks for. Over the last 2 years, no one has explained it in simple enough terms for me to understand, so odds are I’m not going to gain a sudden understanding of the complexities of such a big event. I am okay with that.
  • The Oscars.
  • People who claim that e-readers aren’t *real* readers.
  • When someone cuts me off in traffic.
  • Being over-charged at Sonic. $2 isn’t worth getting worked up over.
  • When I make a minor mistake. I apologize, I mean it, and then I let it go.

Now here’s something I DO care about. I’m trying to turn my blog series “Notes From the Zookeeper” into an actual book. I have some chapters laid out already, but I would love some input. If you were reading such a book, what would you hope to learn? This book is going to be primarily factual, with lots of references, but there will be room for anecdotes about animals. What do you want to know? Help me bring this idea to fruition!

I had so much fun with “Unscienceandanimal” hash tag!

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: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.

Needs:

  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.

Wants:

  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!

 

How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

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.

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.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!!

It’s fine if you politely decline to answer that question. If you know me in real life, you probably have an entire list. It’s cool with me if you keep it to yourself. No, I insist. Seriously, STOP TALKING!

So here’s my problem. I am home alone. Okay, that right there is not the problem. Home alone means getting stuff done. Or it should. I had a list of wanna-do kinds of things. I want to write some, do a bit of NaNo prep, work on my digital scrapbook, get some exercise, make a pizza, do some dishes. You know, nothing much.

But here I sit, bound, tied, gagged by anxiety. The worst part if it is, I don’t even know WHY. There is no single, logical thought that has become my tripping hazard. So in an effort to contain this prickly beast that feels like electricity in my chest, I blog. It’s a Sunday, it’s beautiful weather, people are busy with Halloween parties and their own NaNo prep, so I don’t even have the pressure of having people read this post. So it’s good.

If you have never experienced inexplicable anxiety, this is kind of what it looks like.

Why am I anxious? It could be because…

  • I haven’t processed the Padawan’s new diagnosis and made my peace with it
  • The Girl-Child is on a camping trip
  • The Girl-Child seemed ill-prepared for this camping trip
  • The Girl-Child may get eaten by a bear
  • If Girl-Child isn’t eaten by a bear, I have to drive her to Chattanooga when she gets home
  • The boys are on a hike without me to try to complete their 100 mile challenge
  • Their dad may poop out early and call it quits and they won’t get their 100 miles
  • I will be forced to rally the troops next Sunday and lead them to the finish line myself
  • If I am forced to lead them across the finish line, I will be missing valuable NaNo writing time
  • This is the first NaNoWriMo in which I have absolutely zero ideas speaking to me
  • What if I start NaNo and can’t finish for the first time ever?
  • What if I start NaNo and I struggle every, single night to get the words down?
  • I have not managed to stay awake past 9pm for the last 3 months. How will I complete NaNo?
  • I should be working on my mom’s scrapbook, but it means I have to upload photos
  • Once the photos are uploaded, I have to arrange them on the page
  • After the photos are arranged on the page, I have to CAPTION them
  • What if I die during the scrapbooking/NaNoWriMo/Hiking challenge?
  • Can I arrange to be eaten by a bear?
  • What if the baby kitties get fat?
  • Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

    Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

  • What if my cinnamon tree cutting dies?
  • Can I order cinnamon trees online?
  • What if it gets too cold and dies in transit and the company I bought it from refuses to refund me because I should have known better?
  • Can I grow cinnamon from seed?
  • If I grow cinnamon from seed, I’m supposed to plant them immediately because they have limited viability. But they aren’t supposed to be planted until Spring. And then it takes a month or more for them to sprout
  • What if the seeds are all dead and it’s too late to complain and leave feedback on Ebay?
  • What if I never own the Charlie Brown Funko figure where he’s dressed as a ghost?
  • Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can't have you!

    Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can’t have you!

  • What if I spend all day worrying and never get anything done?
  • What if I don’t get good pictures of the new Radiata hatchlings at the zoo?
  • Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

    Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

  • Speaking of new hatchlings, that reminds me I’m supposed to scrapbook for the department. I need to compile photos into a concise album to make that process easier. Easier? Suddenly it feels the very opposite of easy
  • Also speaking of new hatchlings… My new baby Neon Day Gecko – what if the parents eat it?Are there two new ones? What if they are eaten by spiders?
  • Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

    Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

  • What if we are ALL EATEN BY SPIDERS?
  • What if one day while I am hanging upside down to do water changes in the big exhibit, the driftwood becomes so weak that it collapses and everyone sees me fall into the water?
  • What if NO ONE sees me and I drown and my face gets eaten by the turtles?
  • What if I can’t find all the fun photos I want to add to this post?
  • What if I do find them, but my storage is all eaten up and I can’t post them?
  • What if I have to wash my hair again tonight?
  • What if I am out of shampoo and CAN’T wash my hair tonight?
  • What if my ENTIRE family is eaten by bears? It’s bear season, and maybe my whole family put on their best acorn underwear for their big hiking/camping trips?
  • What if Sonic runs out of dark chocolate/potato chip/pretzel Blasts?
  • What if I eat the Blast and it goes straight to my bum and none of my pants fit me anymore?
  • What if it never gets cold again?
  • What if it gets cold and I am very, very sorry that it is cold because I wear shorts all winter and end up with chilblains?
  • What if I never learn what chilblains are? But spellcheck does, so I know it’s a thing
  • What if my headache/anxiety/neuropathy/memory loss never go away?
  • What if I never get an idea for NaNo and the muse has left me and I never got to write again and my new computer sits on my writing table sad and dejected?
  • What if I go outside to go for a walk and a walnut falls out of the tree, hits me on the head, and renders me unconscious in the middle of the road?
  • What if I go to the gym to work out because walnuts typically don’t fall in the gym, but the bean burrito I ate last night makes its presence known and all the other members die of methane poisoning and I go to jail for premeditated foofing?
  • What if I don’t make it to Target in time for the post-Halloween 90% off sale and all the pet costumes are gone and Ravenclaw and Pandora are stuck being naked for the rest of their lives?
  • Okay, so maybe they won't be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    Okay, so maybe they won’t be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    pandora_the_bat

  • What if I can’t figure out a super-cool Halloween costume?
  • What if we go trick-or-treating and kids come by our house and no one is home, so they egg the place?
  • What if we buy a million bags of candy and we have no trick-or-treaters, so I am forced to eat the candy myself because I take one for the team, and then I get fat?
  • What if the MRI costs $10,000 and insurance doesn’t cover it and we are stuck in debt again?
  • What if my chest actually bursts apart with the electricity that is building in it?

Is it too late to sign up to get eaten by a bear? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about a costume because I would be Winnie’s Poo. Also, now I want a hermit crab.

 

 

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.

Join Me In #PitchWars 2016. My Bio

To all of my writer friends who have a manuscript… you need to do this, too. #PitchWars is a competition where mentors select writers whose manuscript they will read and critique to get it ready for querying. Yeah, for real. So write a bio, join the blog hop, polish up that manuscript, and get ready to enter the competition on August 3rd.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce myself.

I’m Heather. I started writing decades ago, and I’m still at it.

snapegif

Those early works are hidden in my basement. My husband and I have been married for 21 years. When we’re married for 21 more, I might let him read them. But probably not. I think I’m more likely to strip naked and take a poop in a public square than ever let those manuscripts see the light of day.

I am a full time zookeeper in the Herpetology department of Zoo Knoxville. I love my job. I work with all the creepy crawly things, many of them critically endangered. Here’s a link to a Facebook Live event the zoo did with my hatching Madagascar Northern Spider Tortoises.

Every day at work is my best day.

Chinese Alligator waiting for her physical. I am in love with this animal. Her feet are squishy. Who knew?!

Chinese Alligator waiting for her physical. I am in love with this animal. Her feet are squishy. Who knew?!

Click to enlarge any of the following images.

I incorporate real-life experiences in my novels whenever I can, which is more often than you might think, considering only two of my six manuscripts have a character working in a zoo setting. The case of the missing ferret? Yeah, it’s in there. Crazy Harry Potter Lady? She’s in there, too. Not that there’s anything wrong with Harry Potter. I did this to my kid once:

And I'm not sorry.

And I’m not sorry. Also, I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.

But that lady was cra-zy. It made for a good story, though.

In my spare time, I’m also a computer teacher for grades Kindergarten-8th. For the last two years, I have taken grades 2-8 through the adventures of NaNoWriMo. I had six finishers this year, the youngest in the fourth grade. I love how caught up in the adventure most of the kids get, and some of them have unlocked a passion for writing. That right there is the best feeling.

Books I have read recently:

The Hunger Games (I’m letting my kids choose my reading list for summer, so I’ll be adding Eragon and The Things They Carried next)

To Know a Fly – the best book on applied science I have ever read

Business With Pleasure – the second in a series about a character I adore. I got a review copy form the author. It’s an urban fantasy/romance

Undead on Arrival – my first zombie apocalypse novel because I am pushing myself to read outside of my comfort zone

The Killing Kind – I love Chris Holm’s urban fantasy, and this thriller lives up to his previous work

Favorite Authors:

Jasper Fforde

Rosamunde Pilcher

Jim Butcher

J.K. Rowling – not just the HP series. A Casual Vacancy was haunting in a totally different way.

My current novel:

It’s an adult fiction piece. After the accident, Jodi gives up what she once loved. But is she creating a new life for herself, or is she hiding from her past? I loved writing this book so much that the sequel poured out in 12 glorious days. I’ve shelved the third book for now because I want to polish the first one and get it market-ready.

And as Forrest Gump would say,

 

If you have any questions about me, let ’em fly, either in the comments section or on Twitter.

Be sure to visit the other writers in the blog hop and jump in here with me. Unmitigated terror loves company, or something like that.

 

 

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My 2016 Wishes

Just to clarify, 2016 is a year, not a quantity. It’s not that long a post, cross my heart.

2015 was a good year. A fine year. It was okay. I’m sure it did its best. 2016, though, wow. It sits on the horizon like a shiny new boyfriend, dangling its baubles of possibility. It hasn’t yet left its underwear on the floor, eaten my stash of MoonPies, or stolen my car. There’s still that tiny chance that it will be perfect, The One. Heck, it’s so special it’s even got an extra day. I plan to spend that bonus day like found money, friends. It’s already burning a hole in my pocket.

I made some wishes to start the New Year out right. In a new relationship, it’s important to say exactly what you want, you know. So here goes.

  1. I want my new computer to pack itself up and send itself back for repairs. I’m not asking for the moon, here. I’m not requesting a self-healing laptop or anything. That would be greedy, and maybe a little unrealistic. I just want it to throw itself in the box and print out its own packing labels and such. And I don’t want it to use my reindeer duct tape to seal itself up, either. I know I said I was okay with the the thing being broken, but depression is sneaky like that. One minute I’m pretty okay with adulting; the next minute, the thought of having to hook up the printer, get out the packing tape, and insert flange A into slot B is overwhelming.
If the elves can't fix them, maybe they can just buy me new ones?

If the elves can’t fix them, maybe they can just buy me new ones?

  1. I want my Vibram Five Fingers to last forever. I received a pair as a gift a couple of days ago, and they already make me sad because I know that in six months or a year, all the tread will be gone, and I’ll have to throw them away or risk slipping and falling to my death. Then I’ll be Five-fingerless. They make my feet look like flippers, but they are heaven. They feel like magic, so maybe they ARE magic. Maybe some little flipper-footed elves will make me new pairs in the dead of night?
  2.  I want this to be the year that I can read more books by the expedient of shoving a computer chip in my skull. I used to study in college by rubbing my notes on my head and then sleeping with them under my pillow, but I think that only works if the volume in question is under ten pages. My to-be-read list is a giant backlog of things too good to skip. I just have to find the built-in card reader that I’m sure my head came with. Lesson learned: it isn’t in my nose.
  3. This year, I want to figure out a direction for my blog. Probably north. North is good. Except for the polar bears. But south means piranhas. See, this is why I’ve never found direction. There’s no way to win.
  4. I want this to be the year that Americans get their collective thumbs out of their collective card-readers and vote on issues, not along party lines. Forrest Gump said it best when he stated “That’s all I got to say about that.”
  5. I wish for zero One Direction trends on Twitter in 2016. I don’t see this happening. I think I’m wasting a wish here.
  6. I will learn to Nae Nae in 2016. My kids say “No No.”
  7. In 2016, I will focus on my art.
    On a related note, maybe this will be the year I remember which side of the hand is pinkie, and which is thumb.

    On a related note, maybe this will be the year I remember which side of the hand is pinkie, and which is thumb.

     

  8. In 2016, I will write the correct year on all my cheques by April at the latest. This is an almost mystical wish because I still write 2008.
  9. This will be the year I get my Christmas shopping done before Winter Solstice. Ah, who am I kidding? A little pressure is a good thing.
  10. In 2016, I will not be bound by conventions that dictate lists should be ten items long. I have a year to work on it.

 

What are your wishes for 2016? If you did a New Years Post, link it in the comments. I’d love to read it!

50 Happy Things: Because Gratitude is Contagious

There’s a whole lot of grateful going on out there on the interwebs. I just happened to catch the wave of it when Dawn over at Tales FromThe Motherland started a whole gratitude blog party. The gist is simple. Write down as many things I am grateful for as I can in 10 minutes. I had to start this a couple of times. First time around, I came up with “sticks,” and “trees.” Because apparently there was too much pressure, or I am a squirrel. So I tried it again. None of it is in any particular order

Stuff I’m grateful for:

My computer. It takes me places.

My husband. We were meant for each other. At a recent Christmas party white elephant exchange, a gift was opened, our eyes locked, and we both knew without speaking that we had to have it. When it was my turn, I took it for our own. We high-fived. It is beautiful.

It's a redneck plunger. It's beautiful. It goes perfectly with our Leg Lamp.

It’s a redneck plunger. It’s beautiful. It goes perfectly with our Leg Lamp.

The Girl-child. She is home for the holidays, and without getting all maudlin, I’ll just say that I forget how helpful and funny she is. It’s good to be a family of five again.

The Padawan. He’s a funny one, and he always makes me laugh.

Squish. He made me late for work. Because he needed to put on a fresh roll of toilet paper.  I have passed on the sacred knowledge.

NaNoWriMo. I made some real strides this year. I needed the prod back into writing, and it has taken my students to places they never thought they’d go.

Gas range. Which I guess officially makes me a boring grown-up. I’m okay with that. It cuts cooking time in half sometimes.

Tech savvocity  I never used to think of myself as tech savvy, but I  am now. I can hate on Windows 10, not because I am afraid of new things, but because it has actually given up functionality.

New things that hatch. Images are borrowed mostly from previous posts, which is why the captions are weird, but I’m almost out of room for photo storage here. Click to enlarge.

My job. I love going to work every day. Who wouldn’t?

My camera. I take thousands of photos every year. I love to catalog stuff.

The blogosphere. Referring specifically to the wonderful people that have come into my life because of blogging, in person sometimes.

Pesky cats. I don’t have words for the weird little fuzzy things that share my space. Pixel is such a kids’ cat. She hears a crash and is off to see how she can help stir things up further. Loki is her spirit-deity.

Maturity My new computer has something wrong with the display, and I had some things stolen from the mailbox at Christmas. But it’s just one of those things, a series of inconveniences, not tragedies like they might have been two years ago. 

Grocery shopping  Don’t get me wrong. I hate grocery shopping because it’s a chore, but it is also a privilege not everyone has.

Holidays. Family fun time is the best time.

Humor. I like to laugh. I NEED to laugh. I discovered The Bloggess this year. I approve. She even retweeted some of my tweets in her awkward fest a few weeks ago.

Good books. There is nothing better than losing myself in a good book. What’s the best book you read in 2015? My e-reader is hungry.

Writing. If I don’t like the world I am living in, I can write myself a new one. I need to do that more.

My friends. They keep me grounded AND encouraged.

Music Trite, but true. Sometimes somebody else sings the songs of my heart. This year I discovered Poets of the Fall.

Free books  My used bookstore has a free bin out front. I find all kinds of treasures in it, like a hardcover Lord of the Rings. Also? Kobo store has some free gems now and again.

E-readers.  I got a new one for Christmas – shiny, back-lit, glorious. I love tree books, but e-readers mean that when my sad hands get all crampy and useless, I can still read.

Getting rid of crap. After Christmas, I try to get rid of at least as much stuff as I brought into the house. I aim for more this year.

My faith. It pulls me through hard times.

My blood family. They’re weird and funny and nutty and wonderful.

My church family. See above. Family is family.

Iwako Erasers. If anyone wants to send me a bag of fifty, I’ll give them a good home.

Harry Potter. This book series has brought much joy into my life and some incredible people. It is made of magic.

SPP. The best little online game that you’ve probably never heard of. I met wonderful people there, some of whom are sisters from other mothers IRL.Also, the first time I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing lasts forever.

This is also the place where I learned that people will complain about ANYTHING. It was a giant education in a little, fun game.

SPP. This is also the place where I learned that people will complain about ANYTHING. It was a giant education in a little, fun game.

My school. I can be in the worst mood ever, but the moment I walk in, I feel the love and joy. My school feeds my soul.

Toys. I like fun. I am naturally attracted to toys.

Lego sets This morning, Squish spent several hours putting together his Mystery Machine Lego set. So I got to sleep in and then READ.

My Chemex. I’m not a hipster, but I do appreciate good coffee. I can’t go back to auto-drip now that I’ve used a Chemex.

Old dogs that can learn new tricks, like how to use a Chemex.

Storage containers As a kid, I dreamed about what Santa would bring me for Christmas. As an adult, I dream about putting it all in clear plastic boxes.

When my kids read my blog and laugh.

Being a recommended humor blog. I think that ship has sailed, but I was on WordPress’s nice list for a nice, long stint.

Good movies

The ability to like what I like without caring what anyone else thinks. This ability was a long time in coming, but better late than never.

Used bookstores.

Wool socks If it ever bothers to get cold again. It’s just after Christmas, and it’s over 70 degrees.

Family photos, especially the ones that hold family secrets. We have a hundred years’ worth of photos, and they are priceless. 

Blogs. My lunch hour is spent reading blogs. Some of my faves are The Middlest Sister, The Kitchens Garden, and 2 Brown Dawgs. I read dozens. There are more, I’m just running out of room here!

Good customer service. The champs this year – Lego Store, Chuck E. Cheese, JCPenney, Mostafa at Hewlett-Packard, and Shutterfly.

New editing tools on WordPress. And also the ability to write in the old admin format. The new one is too minimalist for these eyes to read. So thanks for looking out for us old-timers, WordPress.

Punctuation. I know it doesn’t seem like it from looking at my list, but WordPress wouldn’t play nice with punctuation and formatting today.

There are forty-something on here, I think. The numbered bullets went all nutty when I added images, so I removed them. Too much to do tonight to spend longer than twenty minutes wrestling with the formatting. Want to join us? I hope you do!

Instructions, copied and pasted from Dawn’s blog:

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

 

Pretend this is a blue frog and click here to join the party.