Act 1: The Pre-Game Show
8:00am – I knock on the Padawan’s door to wake him up. I hear a grunt, so I know he is, at least, alive.
8:15 – A second knock, accompanied by
a mild threat encouragement.
8:20 – The Padawan emerges, coughing, groaning, and sneezing pitifully. “I think I caught something yesterday,” he moans. His paroxysms would garner more sympathy if he didn’t fake his own death before every, single hike.
8:25 The Padawan flops into a chair with a dramatic sigh.
8:30 The Padawan reads “Penguins With People Problems.” Under normal circumstances, I would applaud his choice. It’s hilarious. But we’re going to rack up some miles! Times a-wastin’!
8:35 The Padawan pets a baby kitty. It’s about to get real all up in here.
8:45 After vaguely veiled threats to take him on the trail in his ever-lovin’ jim-jams, he is finally dressed and ready to go. Squish is easier. It’s the one time I’m grateful he sleeps in his clothes. All I have to do is put on his boots and point him in the right direction.
Act 2: On the Trail
11:42am – It took us a while because we
got lost. More than once. went exploring, but we’re finally ready to step off at the trail head. Armed with four Clif bars and a bag of apples plenty of food and water, we are ready to get this done!
11:45am – Threaten to sell the Padawan to the circus.
12:30 – Threaten to sell BOTH boys to the circus.
12:45 – Wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to go hiking on my own. I’m not sad that my Saloman boots are being repaired. I have these Timberlands. I love them so much that I have three identical pairs.
1:00 – Like a muscle that simply needs time to warm up, the Padawan’s attitude improves dramatically. We talk school and books and politics. We keep our eyes peeled for good places to hunt salamanders.
1:10 – I get a terrific idea! The boys are skeptical. Kids
have hiked with me before sure turn cynical quickly these days, don’t they? The little scamps! Hey, fellas, what say we add a few miles to this trail? Let’s make the turn and head up Goshen’s Prong for a couple of miles? Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t it?!! After a promise of Sonic Blasts or Yu-gi-oh cards, they agree. Fantastic idea, Mom!
Act 3: The Reckoning
2:30 – I’m not tired! Man, these boots are small. Wow, how did I forget how small these boots are? If it weren’t for that deformed long toe of mine.
2:45 – This was a good idea, right? Yes, it was. We’re going to get extra miles to help us to our 100 mile goal! Just think how close we will be! Did I ever mention that I am allergic to wool socks? Yeah, I forgot, too. That’s an interesting rash.
2:50 – Attempt to saw off my two deformed toes with a rock and a sharp stick.
3:00 – Not much further now, kids! We’re down and back! Down and back! Let’s catch us some salamanders! Or you boys catch them. My hands are swollen like two chunks of wood. I might squish the hapless amphibians. And my boots are feeling a wee bit snug. Isn’t that funny? Ha-ha?
3:05 – Enough with the salamanders, boys. We’ve caught enough. We’ve each found one. Or we found one. I don’t know. Can we just go?
3:15 – My feet. At least the rapid swelling has replaced itchy with numbness. So there’s that.
3:30 – See that patch of sunlight up a ways? That’s the trail head! We’re almost there!
3:35 – Wrong #$%$ patch of sunlight, kids. Just stop talking and keep walking. Just. Keep. Walking. To the nearest boot store, if possible.
3:50 – That patch of sunlight was the wrong one, too. Keep frickin’ walking. Whose idea was this, anyway?
3:55 – My. Feet. Hurl boots into nearest stream and wonder if I can convince one of the boys to carry me.
4:00 – Oh, thank you, sweet baby Jesus, for leading us out of the woods! You are our light in the darkness! What do you MEAN, the car is another half-mile from here? I know the closest parking lot was full when we got here, but doesn’t the park service offer valet? How many Yu-gi-oh cards will I have to give for a helicopter rescue?
That makes 90 miles for me. Only 10 more to go. Let’s go again TOMORROW!
So the husband and I have joined a marriage class at our church. It’s a biblically-based Francis Chan study, and there’s a free PDF for anyone who is interested.** Let me know if the link doesn’t work, and I will see if I can find it for you.
The first chapter is called “Marriage Isn’t That Great,” and I’ve been chewing on that title for the last two weeks. And you know what? They’re kind of right.
Marriage changes everything. Husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. We knew each other well, or at least we thought we did. We were starry-eyed idiots. “I do” turns into “What have I DONE?” and moonlit walks become mortgage payments with the speed of Seabiscuit on crack.
When we were dating, a professor told us that he and his wife knew each other well. “I know my wife will eat the last piece of chocolate cake without telling me,” he said in class one day. “And she knows that I will, too.”
How horrible, I thought. Not only would I leave my beloved the last piece of cake, I would set it out on a plate with his name on it and draw a bunch of hearts around it so that he will know how loved he is. Fast-forward 21 years, and not only do I hide all the good treats in an empty tampon box so he won’t touch it, I don’t even want to share the FIRST piece of a cake. I got a chocolate ganache cake at a cake walk. When husband asked what ganache is, I may have told him it means “antelope testicle.” And he didn’t believe me because 1/4 of the cake was gone the following morning.
Marriage is HARD. There’s a reason the expression “The honeymoon is over” exists. When we were dating, the toughest thing we had to agree on was where we were going to eat. Now it’s “Whose turn is it to do dishes/laundry/lunches/grocery shopping?” ***
Dating is a time we put our best foot forward, even while we were planning that trip down the aisle. We used to whisper sweet nothings like “You’re so beautiful!” “I could hold you forever.” “I love you so much, my heart hurts.” Now our whispers are more like “I haven’t pooped in two weeks.””What is that smell? Was that you? Dear God in heaven! See a doctor!” And “I would give you the MOON!” becomes “Another cat? Are you serious? The MOON, woman! I offered you THE MOON! The moon doesn’t use a litter box!”
Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Marriage is laundry on the floor, reading when your partner would rather be talking, talking when your partner would rather be reading, paying utilities and mowing the lawn. It’s responsibility. It’s constantly fighting our natural selfish instincts to keep from killing one another in “The Great Covers War.” It’s learning the real meaning of “In sickness and in health,” when you watch your partner develop a potentially debilitating illness. It’s the storm, but it’s also the calm after.
It’s reaching in your lunch bag and finding a surprise package of animal crackers. It’s knowing that he ate some testicle-free ganache cake, but discovering that he also bought a bag of Sweet Tango apples because he ate the last one and he knows they’re your favorite. It’s my heart skipping a beat when he walks in the room, not because he scared me, but because he still looks good to me after all these years. It’s the coming home and finding the kitten you’ve wished for sitting on your pillow after work.
Marriage itself isn’t the easy road. But I’m so glad I’m here, and I know I’ll be okay as long as he and I are on this road together.
** for the record, it loads onto an e-reader as a PDF file, but it reads just fine. My Kobo isn’t very PDF-friendly, but it reads like any other book. Don’t let “PDF” scare you.
*** the answer to this question is usually “mine/mine/mine/probably mine.” What can I say? I’m a slacker.
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.
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.
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.
My sister an I used to get along fine. Not anymore. I quit speaking to her a few days ago. We used to do fun things. We both love Harry Potter. She makes a great Molly Weasley, and we went to the release of the last two books together. Those days are done. Except for Harry Potter. I still love him.
We are all put on this earth for a purpose, I firmly believe that. It is up to us to fulfill it; us and no one else. And that’s what it all comes down to.
She has her gifts, and I have mine. I am a decent photographer, and that’s what I was doing. That was my job, and I took it seriously. I can’t say the same for her. It went fine at first. She did her thing and all, but then suddenly she totally dropped the ball. I mean FOR REAL. I don’t know if she gave up, or if she was bored, or if she was a victim of over-thinking. No idea. I would ask her and find out, but it would involve speaking to her. And I’m not. I believe I mentioned that.
Anyway, I was kind of counting on her to get her part done, and she didn’t. I mean, how hard is it? You put the crystal of power to the vampire’s chest and blow it to smithereens. It’s demon-vanquishing 101, people. I would have done it myself, but, HELLO, I had the camera. I can’t wield the crystal, anyway. That’s totally her deal. But she didn’t do it
I don’t know why she didn’t. She had no trouble nixing the possessed dog’s head/transistor radio thingy or the old monster with the weird hair, but when she got to that last boogie-man, things kind of fell apart. She dusted the dude with the powder of darkness just fine. And she lit the candle like she’d done it her whole life. But when it came time to seal the deal, she choked. And we both died. So that’s why I’m mad at my sister.
So it may have been a dream, but I’m not sure. I’m not taking any chances. Any Chosen Ones out there who know their way around a Crystal of Power?
Some posts, like my last one, are so easy to write. The words and images flow to the page in no time. This post isn’t one of those. I’ve pondered it for weeks on end. How do I say it just right, so that I
don’t look like a crazy person do the topic justice? Will I say it right? Will I embarrass myself? My family? The cats? They would never forgive me.
So here goes, for better or for worse. I have experienced depressive episodes for most of my life, for different reasons. I know now that I have a congenital liver disorder that can affect my whole body, including my moods. The psych symptoms are the hardest to deal with, and it doesn’t help to remind myself that these feelings aren’t “real,” that they are a biological reaction to a missing enzyme. It also doesn’t help to remind myself that I should be grateful for what I have. I can’t be grateful for my beautiful family when all I can remember is how I have let them down. I know I have a great job, two of them, actually, but I can’t think about it without thinking of all the balls I have let drop or how I could be better.
Depression is a beast. It’s a paralytic. I cannot appreciate the big things because they are just too, too big, a shadow looming overhead. Sometimes in the thick of it, I need the little things, things small enough to hold in my paralyzed hands. So there you go. My tiny things.
Kittens. Forever and ever and ever. Ravenclaw and Pandora are sometimes what keeps me going. I can put one foot in front of the other if I know that in an hour or two, I can cover myself in baby kittens and peace out.
And they sleep beside me, and they keep me company, and even when they are grown up cats, they will be my refuge. Ravenclaw’s love language is a game called “Imma trip you until you pick me up and hold me like a little baby.” And Pandora’s is “Imma lick your eyeballs in the middle of the night.” I don’t even have to think about whether or not I deserve their love. Deserve it or not, they’re serving it up.
My plants. I might have a problem, you know. I have a green thumb, and I LOVE to grow things. The only tiny wrinkle here is that I only have one window for winter when all the plants come IN. And five cats. F-I-V-E cats. But my plants help me to keep going.
The more complicated it is to grow a cultivore, the more I like it. Maybe when I have success with the tough ones, it proves I can do something right, despite the voices in my head to the contrary.
Harry Potter. And it doesn’t bother me at all to say it. I love being in a world that has Harry Potter, and even NEW Harry Potter things. And I can cos-play with the best of them. I won an award at The Cursed Child book release party. Best Costume Overall. I feel proud to be a part of it. (If you click to enlarge the images, you will see the Playboy mags on the shelf behind me)
Cherries. There are cherries in the world. I guess they are out of season now, but that means it will be less than a year before they are BACK on shelves.
Friendship in unexpected places. We had a Harry Potter event at the zoo, and I had too much work to do and couldn’t participate. But the people running the event didn’t want me to miss out. They made me a magic wand. With Slytherin sparkles and a ribbon that looks like snake-skin. I am humbled every time I look at it.
This might be the beginning of a series. Out of curiosity, how do you keep going when things get tough?
I love my job, and I try to do it well. Each day, I set goals for myself, taking pride in crossing tasks off my list one after the other. This week, one of my jobs was to take some pictures for a special event. It took me several days and 52 photos to get a shot that was workable, but there went one more big item off my list.
I had another big task to do this week. I almost didn’t get it done. It should have taken me an hour or two at the most, but instead it took the better part of the week, working off and on. Due to excessive rain, the hay in the Aldabra Tortoise lot looked rather shabby, so I wanted to rake it up and put down fresh hay. A number of things got in my way – tours, weather, other important tasks.
Meet my biggest obstacle.
Al has been at our zoo since 1974, and he knows how to get what he wants. Currently, what he wants is my attention. I have turned over some of the maintenance of his exhibit to two trusted volunteers, and I haven’t had as much time to spend with him. When I brought in the fresh bale of hay, he parked himself ON it. So there was nothing I could do but wait. And pet him. Who is training whom, here? Eh, I believe we know the answer to that one.
Click to enlarge the following images. They may not make sense otherwise.
So what is a girl to do?This task should have taken 15 minutes. It took over an hour. No regrets. I first met Big Al when I was 8 years old, and I fell in love with him on sight. Now it seems the feeling may be mutual. Today I was a little less task oriented, and a little more loved. It was a good trade.
Maybe I’m not such a great parent after all.
My parenting philosophy can be summed up in three words. “Keep Expectations Low.” I need that on a t-shirt. Because I’ve never taken them on vacation (Go ahead and judge me. I am TERRIBLE!), I don’t have to do much to impress the boys. They’re better off that way.
I could drive them around the block and show up at the YMCA, and they’d still think it an exotic vacation if they get to:
- play video games in bed until 11pm.
- enjoy cable TV – although Squish learned that having 50 channels doesn’t guarantee that there is something to actually watch. It was a hard life lesson for him.
- get snacks from a vending machine
- continental breakfast, whether it boasts a waffle maker or dog turd sandwiches.
- swim in a pool – and let me tell you, size does not matter. Our motel pool is smaller than the double bed in the motel room, and they still think they are Mr. and Mrs. Howell.
One day, maybe we’ll actually get cable at home, and then they will NEVER leave! NAH!
You heard it here first. I am not a good parent. I let my kids down in a big way.
I’ve never taken my kids on vacation. Like, ever. Not once. The Girl-child is 19, and she’s never been away on vacation. She has been away from home, of course. All the kids have. To grandma’s, to camp, etc. But never away to do fun things for more than a night. Until now. It’s road trip time.
It is for the boys, anyway. The Girl-child is staying home because she has a job. And I have, like, a million pets. We’re hitting the road for St Augustine.
Last night, it all seemed like a good idea, a great one, even. I was so excited. We went to St Augustine as honeymooners 21 years ago, and we loved it so much. There are plenty of places we haven’t been, but if we’re going to leap into vacation, we should go somewhere we know. Or think we know. Or whatever.
In the light of day, the shine has worn off this particular idea. I didn’t go on vacation much as a kid. Why should my kids be spoiled? Also? Kittens. How do I leave this?
This morning, husband loaded the car with way too much stuff. I will continue packing things into bags until there is nothing left but the bare studs and a few good memories if I am not bodily removed from the premises. The goal was to leave at 7am
6:30 Squish wakes us up
6:40 Finally get out of bed
6:45 Look around for the clothes I laid out last night. I swear they were *right here*
6:50 Find clothes in exactly the spot I left them last night. My bad, husband. I didn’t see them. Don’t look at me like that!
6:55 Learn that husband does not, in fact, like my orange Minions shirt and never has. It’s like our whole marriage has been a lie.
6:56 Begin existential crisis.
7:15 Ignore horn honking in the driveway and check Twitter
7:18 Go out to move car.
7:19 Return to the house to get keys.
7:20 Return to house to get coffee
7:21 Return to house to pee one last time
7:23 Insist that everyone else go pee also
7:35 Get in car
7:36 Return to house to replace kitten who mysteriously appeared in my backpack. I don’t know how she got there, so stop looking at me like that.
7:38 On the road.
The trip was uneventful. Husband found a route that takes 5 fewer hours than our last trip, or maybe new interstates have been constructed in the last 20 years. The only blip was a visit to a benighted McDonald’s with the least attentive servers in history and a child at the table behind us whose shrieks could have peeled the paint off the walls.
We got here in before dark, but I suspect it’s going to be an interesting visit. Instead of a magical stay at a bed and breakfast, we’re at the bad end of town in a motel who lists “toilet” as one of its amenities. I was all excited, but my enthusiasm waned with the daylight. Suddenly it seems like too much work to leave the room.
It’s not all bad. The kids didn’t want to leave the room, either. They opted to send Dad out to bring back a pizza. I’m pretending that it’s a money-saving move and not because I don’t have the energy to fight traffic tonight. Time enough for that tomorrow, right?
I can’t sleep without a kitten chewing on my feet. I do hope that one of the boys is up to the job.
My actual conversation with a Chipotle server:
Her: You want anything else on it? Any salsa?
Me: I want guac. I know it’s extra. It’s okay.
Her: There is no guac.
Me: I want guac.
Her: There is no guac.
Me: How can there be no guac?
Her: Because you didn’t buy any. This is your house, Mom.
Sounds like excuses to me.