Things That Are Better In Pairs

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

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

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

  • Socks
Buy me these. I needs these. Source

Buy me these. I needs these. Source

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

I definitely need these in my life!

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

      I don't understand "brief," either.

      I don’t understand “brief,” either.

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

How happy am I? Pretty darned happy!


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

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


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

The Best Question I Have Ever Been Asked

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

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

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

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

“Are you from the future?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What is the worst movie you have seen this year?

It’s hard to be brave

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

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


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

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

And this one?

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

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

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

So here’s a new one on me.

“There’s a werewolf!”

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

“I saw one.”

“It’s not a werewolf.”




“I don’t see it!”

“There! Just now! It moved!”

“I see it. It’s not a werewolf.”




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

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

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

“You sure?”

“I’m really, really sure, Ravenclaw.”

I don't think she believes me.

I don’t think she believes me.


The One Where I Make a Big Announcement

First let me say that I was as surprised by the ending to this story as you are. It was not exactly expected, but I’m also not sad at how things have turned out.

I called my husband from work a few Saturdays ago to tell him that Spider-Man*** and Captain America were coming to the zoo to sign autographs. Every, single pretend play event like this is a reminder that my boy is growing up. And I grieve.

“He may not be interested,” I said over the phone. My heart said “Please, God, let him want to come.”

“And he might not want to wear a costume,” I added, in the second phone conversation. “Please, God,” my heart cried. “Let him want to wear a costume. Just one more time.”

“And you might want to get here early,” I said, on the third call this time. “Because it gets really busy, and it’s hot, and the heroes might want to take breaks.” And I may never again have a little superhero who dresses up and comes out, ready to fight crime and drink a cherry Slushie.

My heart is hungry for those one more times. One more time to play dress up and pretend. One more time to belly laugh over Snoopy and his silliness. One more time to crawl into my lap and call me “Mommy.” One more time to ask for help tying a boot. One more time to look with wide-eyed innocence at a world too big and too scary.

And I couldn’t take the pain of the one more time. Because what if it never showed up.

On that sunny Saturday, it did. Dressed in his Captain America best, with the cardboard shield his brother and sister had made for him, he trip-trapped up the sidewalk, ready to conquer the world and have his picture taken. He greeted me coolly, and I could see it in his eyes. That one last time is fast approaching, and one time soon will be the last time for both of us because he is the last, the youngest. Why does it feel so unfair?

Here I stand on the precipice of The End,  when it seems like the The Beginnings were only about 10 seconds ago.

I made baby Squish Harry Potter. And I'm not sorry.

I made baby Squish into Harry Potter. And I’m not sorry.


Don't ask. I don't know. He looks like he's having fun, though, doesn't he?

Don’t ask. I don’t know. He looks like he’s having fun, though, doesn’t he?

That shield in an heirloom. And it has seen some action.

That shield in an heirloom. And it has seen some action.

Somehow, this kid went from Baby Harry Potter to playing guitar naked to Captain America with the heirloom shield in about a minute. Kids grow up. I know that. I’ve always known that. But he was my last one, and I wasn’t ready.

I thought I was done. I thought the yearnings for a little one would cease by my age. I’ve said for years that I’m done. No more. I’m ready to not have babies. And I was wrong. My husband didn’t feel quite the same as I, but we talked. And negotiated. And talked some more. And he was reluctant but willing.

So I have an announcement to make. We waited a while before telling everyone, and we haven’t even told all of our family and friends yet, but I have some big news.

We got a kitten.

My kitten summed up in one photo. "Hey! You busy? I'm not in your way, am I?"

Ravenclaw summed up in one photo. “Hey! You busy? I’m not in your way, am I?”

Wait. What did you think I was going to say?

***I just learned how to spell Spider-Man correctly so that Spell-check doesn’t yell. Be happy for me! Or very sad. It has only taken me 44 years.

The Confession That Will Make People Hate Me

It’s been a while since I made a confession here. People like confessions. That might be why my most popular post ever was this one. So here it is.

I am not a cat person. What is that I hear? It is the sound of thousands of people running screaming to the “unfollow”button. It might be my neighbor actually screaming. She has a problem.. But there you have it. I’m not a cat person. I am a dog person. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are bred with an actual purpose in life. Golden Retrievers hunt, Rottweilers drove cattle to market, Schnauzers were ratters. Cats all look relatively the same, and they have the work ethic of a salted slug. Cats are fine, but I am not a cat person. Because reasons.

Cats are self-absorbed.

They never let you forget that they are number one in their book.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

Cats are entitled.

They take what they want, even if it’s yours. Food, furniture, the good spot on the bed. It’s all theirs.

Cats are lazy.

They will rub your nose in it every chance they get that you have to earn a living, and they do not.

Cats are destructive.

They will tear your heart into tiny pieces when it’s time for them to leave you.

It's been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don't miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

It’s been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

Finding Dory: I Can’t Sit Through It Again

This is not a review.

I don’t think there are any spoilers here. But if you really need to go in blind, come back and read after you’ve seen the film. I know I’m in the minority. Everyone loves a Disney flick, and so do I. Monsters, Inc? Yes, please. The Emperor’s New Groove? I’ll have an extra helping with a side of Yzma (but hold the Kronk’s New Groove).

The best Disney movie ever made. Eartha Kitts at her most hilarious.

The best Disney movie ever made. Eartha Kitts at her most hilarious.

I even loved Finding Nemo. It came out when the Padawan was just a toddler, and he had already set his sights on becoming a marine biologist.

We went to see Finding Dory on Father’s Day, even though Disney has a history of offing parents in terrible and creative ways. We figure with both of us as parents, we’ll be paying for our kids’ therapy anyway, so why not? We even took Squish. It was his next-to-first movie. We even bought popcorn with free refills. We were ready for adventure. And then the picture rolled.

Fifteen minutes into the film, I didn’t want to watch it anymore. If you’ve never seen either movie, let me catch you up. Dory is a fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. Notice I didn’t say she’s a fish *with* short-term memory loss. She suffers. It is painful, not just for her, but for all of us.

She's adorable. And heartbreakingly apologetic. Photo source: USA Today

She’s adorable. And heartbreakingly apologetic. Photo source: USA Today

The movie contains a number of scenes that flash back to Dory’s babyhood. We get to see baby Dory and her Mom and Dad as they coach her on how to help a cruel world understand her. “My name is Dory, and I have short-term remembery loss.” Isn’t that cute? Maybe it should have been, but it wasn’t. Instead of a little baby fish with big, violet eyes, I see my son.

No, he hasn't been drinking blood. He has a cherry slushie.

No, he hasn’t been drinking blood. He has a cherry slushie.

What broke my heart more? Was it the look on baby Dory’s face each time she realized she was different, somehow lacking in an essential element? Was it her abject apologies to her parents when she failed to remember, when her disability caused her to stumble? Did I imagine the heartsick expressions on her parents’ faces when they reassured her that she hadn’t done anything wrong? I don’t know. I just know I felt exhausted, and I wanted to cry. For Dory, for her parents, for myself.

Instead of feeling hopeful at what was supposed to be an adorable story, I was inexplicably angry, and I wanted the movie to stop. I wanted Disney to quit exploiting this child, to quit showing me over and over and over again how different she is and how painful that difference is for her.

Dory slips away from her parents, something we know has to happen in order to move the story forward, for there to have been a Finding Nemo in the first place. But what was the real story? So many questions bubbled in my brain.

Were Dory’s parents  ever hopeful that one day their child would live a successful life on her own?

What is their internal dialogue each time they reassure her that she is just fine? Do they cry on the inside because they foresee how difficult her life is going to be?

Did they keep her away from the other little fish for her safety, or was it because they were afraid the other fish wouldn’t understand her and would be treat her badly?

How many times did they cry because another fish was cruel to her?

Did Dory understand her parents’ heartache and anger when she was bullied? 

Did being pushed around bother her, or was she, like Squish, completely oblivious?

Did Dory ever have supervised play time with hand-picked small fry so that she could learn how to interact with others, or was she isolated?

Had Dory’s parents planned to have only one child, or were all their resources, both financial and emotional, tied up in Dory?

They knew she had trouble remembering. Why did they ever leave her alone? Why was there no alarm on the door?

Had Dory made enough progress that they genuinely thought she would be able to remember the rules for keeping herself safe?

Were they just so worn down from constant vigilance that they let down their guard?

In the movie, Dory’s parents are always seen together. If they had maybe tag-teamed and taken shifts, would they have had more energy for supervising her? Would their marriage have suffered as a result?

And most importantly, if Dory’s parents couldn’t do it, can I?



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.


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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What I Learn From My Cat

You’ve met Pixel. She’s an adorable, evil genius. This is the cat that can open the oven to get to the pizza. Be afraid.

She looks ready, doesn't she?

She looks ready, doesn’t she?

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

Meet Mousie. Seven-year-old Squish picked Mousie as a toy for Pixel. I didn’t think the cat would touch it with a 10-foot pole, but what do I know? Clearly nothing, because Pixel has a slight obsession with this toy. The cat with the work ethic of a salted slug is all about playing fetch with the mouse.  Or is she?

One day I watched Pixel flip and flop while she played with her toy, and I noticed something really odd. Let’s see if you notice it, too.  Click the first image to create a slideshow and read the captions. They’re the crux of this whole thing.

I couldn’t figure out what she was doing at first. She pawed and scratched at the glass like she was trying to tell me that Timmy fell down the well again. But Lassie she ain’t. You and I BOTH know she would leave Timmy in that well in a skinny minute if saving the kid  meant a long run up the hill to fetch Pa. I watched a little longer, and finally it dawned on me that what she was after was Mousie’s reflection in the back of the china cabinet.

Pixel spent a solid 10 minutes trying to get that imaginary mouse, to the point of kicking the real Mousie out of her way so she could put her best effort into getting to the one in the mirror. The one that isn’t real. The one that she will never be able to have, like Narcissus withering away longing for that beauty he can never possess.

I’ve said for a long time that this cat is almost human, and this incident kind of proves it. How often have we chased after imaginary greatness, ignoring the treasure we already possess?

This story has a happy ending. We discussed Pixel’s work ethic. 10 minutes of effort was all she had in her. She didn’t wither and die. She eventually forgot about reflection Mousie and went off to do what she does best – sleep.

So what imaginary mice are hiding in your mirror? And how do you let them go?



Nearly Wordless Wednesday: How a Snake Eats a Rat

What? You thought I was kidding? I’m not. Here’s a cute image so people don’t stroke out from seeing a snake in their inbox. If you don’t love snakes, don’t click past the picture of the dog wearing glasses. Consider yourself warned!

Dottie the Therapy Dog is so ready to write her book. It's a tail-wagging saga of a chicken biscuit.

Dottie the Therapy Dog is so ready to write her book. It’s a tail-wagging saga of a chicken biscuit.

I got to feed a Green Tree Python yesterday (Morelia viridis, also affectionately known as a Chondro). They’re just so elegant, I took a few pictures. My Twitter friends convinced me to share them.

Click on the images to enlarge them.