I Don’t Want A Stuffed Tiger Cub Or Another Stupid Canvas Bag*

Tuskless elephant

Dear ASPCA and World Wildlife Fund,

Stop. Just stop. My worldview is dismal enough without your ads about starving puppies and elephants hunted for ivory and motherless tiger cubs haunting my television set, the place I go to escape. I get that it is difficult to get a share of people’s donation cash when Covid has decimated household incomes and some people are sending whatever spare money they have to Donald Trump so he can attempt to prove he unfairly lost an election he fairly lost. But, damn. The whole heartstring thing on top of a global pandemic, a country on the precipice of democratic collapse, and the non-stop drum beat of climate catastrophes? It’s too much. You’re killing me, Smalls. We’re all fighting to keep ourselves afloat right now. Alcohol consumption, drug use, and gun deaths are already trending up. I don’t mean to imply that you are driving people to alcoholism or drug abuse or murder, but you probably aren’t helping. What if we all promise to send you $10 a month in perpetuity? If we do that, will you promise not to run even one more misery-inducing ad? Please. I’m begging you. Getting to the remote in time to change channels is becoming increasingly difficult. I’m old and not as fast as I used to be, but apparently my distance eyesight is still good.

Sincerely,

Just kidding

*This piece is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be over-the-top and satirical in nature so before you attack me, please suck some helium and lighten up**

**I don’t literally mean you should suck helium because that is not good for you. It kills brain cells when you lose oxygen, like when you put a bag over your head***

***Speaking of bags, I will take another canvas bag…as long as it doesn’t have starving puppies, tuskless elephants, or orphaned tiger cubs on it

How You Become One Of Those Dog Owners

We don’t even have the puppy yet. We are picking him up this weekend, but I have been on Etsy looking at dog paraphernalia. I have become that person. I did not plan for this to happen. I turned on the news earlier, which was an epic mistake that sent me into a negative spiral. To claw my way out of the crevasse I slipped into, I started looking at clothing items for dogs because nothing says “I need to get out more, but we’re in a global pandemic and not everyone is willing to get vaccinated” more than a puppy in a knock-off Burberry bandana. So apparently I have stopped myself from focusing on the miasmal political nightmare our country finds herself in by losing my mind in a treasure trove of puppy merchandise.

I suppose, however, if you’re going to lose your mind, indulging in puppy Burberry is preferable to going on a murderous rampage or drowning yourself in a river, right? At this point, bandanas, Halloween costumes, and personalized toys for our new family member seem like a healthy mental escape given the alternatives. At least that is what I keep telling myself while simultaneously shaking my head at the notion that this is where I am in my life.

So when you see me walking down the street with my dog dressed to the nines and cute as a button, be nice. Just remember I haven’t lost my mind. This is how I saved it.

Photo borrowed from @hughcollinsdavis on Insta with full credit to Brian Davis

Monday Haiku

I have had a long day after a night of little sleep. So I am just going to share this photo from when I woke up this morning, along with my ode to Mondays. Perhaps you can relate?

Monday Haiku

Monday, how you suck!

We just try to survive you.

Is it Friday yet?

At least the sunrise made Monday look promising for a whole minute

Wolf Spiders Are Satan Spawn — Just Saying

Writer’s note for my fellow arachnophobes: There are no spider photos contained herein. This is a safe space, unless you are afraid of large toads.

I love our new suburban home and neighborhood. When we left our house in the city to move into a house with open space behind it, close to two state parks that we adore, I felt I could breathe again. There was space and nature and wildlife. Every morning when I look out my bedroom window, I am grateful. There is only one thing about this neighborhood that I cannot abide. And that is, in the fall, there are spiders. Big spiders. Creepy, long-legged, sometimes even furry, spiders. I get the heebie-jeebies even typing the word. Shudder.

The safest place to walk on an early fall evening in our neighborhood

I am not afraid of most creatures. I have no problem with snakes, not even those that live around me and rattle. Mice and rats don’t freak me out. I will catch and release moths that make it into my home. I have picked up toads and had the poor frightened things pee in my hands and didn’t blink. I’ve saved a salamander or two from a window well, and removed a vole or two as well. Even black bear sightings don’t frighten me. But spiders? There is a place in hell for them. And don’t bother telling me how good they are at eating other bugs. Do. Not. Care. Anything with eight legs and eight eyes is straight out of hell.

Tonight as we made our way down the driveway for our evening walk with Ruby, Steve casually called out “Spider,” which instead of making me look away caused me immediately to look down and see the sizable wolf spider beastie on the ground to the left of me. And, even though I knew it was there, I still jumped in the air, squealed, shivered, and exclaimed, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Christ!” I hadn’t even made it past the damn sidewalk. Spiders like that one are the reason why at this time of year at night I walk in the middle of the street. I try to avoid sidewalks adjacent to open space or fields or even lawns because the spiders who live there are the large ones that hunt. Wikipedia describes wolf spiders as “athletic.” Seriously? Satan spawn. I would literally rather risk getting hit by a car than be in the direct sight line of one of those devils.

As we skirted our way around the spider and walked up the block in the middle of the road, I noticed my heart was racing, my arms crossed tightly over my chest. My eyes were focused downward, looking for the next big, old, disgusting, furry, eight-eyed, eight-legged beastie I might encounter. On the next block up, we spotted a sizable toad we named Jabba. A bit beyond that, we saw a black cat a distance and I heard Steve call out to it, “Don’t you do it,” and it ran across the street in front of us anyway. Other than that, my downward gaze in the middle of the street spied only one large locust. I walked along mumbling about how I just need to make it to October 31st. We usually don’t see them much after that. I made it back home again without another incident. But now I am wondering if I will dream about spiders tonight because that is usually what happens when I encounter one with a body that would take up the majority of my palm if I held it, which I never would because ewwwwww. Shudder again.

Night zoom shot of Jabba the Huge Toad

I have never been a fan of the fade of summer into fall, but these spider sightings have me ready to put on a sweater, pull on my boots, and get a pumpkin spice latte. As for the spider I saw tonight, well, for him I want to be like Al Capone in The Untouchables when he finds out Elliot Ness has intercepted his bootlegged booze shipment from Canada. I want to stand in the street and tell anyone who will listen that, “I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!

Okay. Fine. Maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic. But let it be known that as they start to die off in the colder weather that lies ahead, every time I glimpse one of their folded-up carcasses on the ground, I will think about that speech, go gangster, and mentally urinate on their lifeless bodies to send a message to the other spiders who might still be lurking around waiting to ambush me at the bottom of my driveway. You’re next.

Sell Crazy Someplace Else

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

The country has gone crazy. Or perhaps some people in our society have. Up is down. Wrong is right. Bad actors are victims. I just can’t anymore. It’s like I’m reading George Orwell’s 1984 again. We have a lot of different opinions and viewpoints in this country, and you should expect that in a nation with a population as varied as ours is. There is now and has always been dissent in the United States. While we don’t all agree on many things, we used to agree that our government and its buildings are sacred and worth protecting. We lost our collective mind when terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon and then learned they had also planned to take down the Capitol. We were so incensed that we went to war about it. American soldiers died because of it. You don’t mess with our institutions. I used to believe we were all on the same page about this.

On January 6th, I had a television news station on while I was sitting at home doing a puzzle. I expected that there might be some hullaballoo around the certification of the election results, so I was listening to it from the other room because I was curious. All I had planned to do was listen. And then I heard the voice of a news anchor note they had just evacuated Mike Pence from the chamber. That got my attention, so I walked into the living room to see what was going on. For the next five hours, no puzzle pieces were placed. I was glued with rapt attention to the chaos I saw unfolding onscreen. I watched as people beat their way past barricades, used any implement they could find to shatter glass, and then crawled their way in through broken windows into the seat of our government. I stood there, head shaking, incredulous for hours. It felt surreal. Tear gas being unleashed. People climbing the Capitol like it was play equipment in their backyard. I wouldn’t have been any more upset or befuddled or shocked if I had seen wild animals from the African sub-continent barreling their way into that building. I was sad and I was scared, scared for the people inside the building, scared about what it meant about our one nation, supposedly indivisible.

In the days and weeks following the attack, I saw more video footage emerge. I saw footage of a Capitol police officer discharging his weapon as someone attempted to crawl through a broken section of a barricaded door outside the House chamber. I saw footage of a man bragging that he had stolen mail from the desk of Speaker of the House and left her a nasty note. I saw footage of men rifling through pages on desks where our lawmakers had recently been There was footage of congressmen and congresswomen being hastily led down back staircases to avoid the combatants. There was video of members of Congress hiding on the floor in the balcony, gas masks at the ready. There was footage of rioters chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Hell, the FBI has a tip page loaded with videos and photos of rioters from that day that you can look at right now. Exactly eight months later, we have a preponderance of video and photographic proof of what unfolded that day. Still, some would have you believe you didn’t see what you did. It was a peaceful protest, they say. There were just a few bad actors. It’s all been blown way out of proportion. Some of these people weren’t even our people, they say, despite a lack of sufficient evidence to back their claim. They say these things and they assume that if they repeat them often enough you will come to believe them, come to question what you know you saw and to accept their alternate version of the truth of what happened before our eyes that day.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.”

In the months since that attack on the Capitol, various rioters have been arrested and charged because of the overwhelming evidence on video footage from that day. Now there is another rally planned for the Capitol, a Justice for J6 rally, on September 18th. There will be a march to the Capitol again. This is not to Stop the Steal, but to seek “justice” for those who viciously beat police officers with flagpoles and hockey sticks, ransacked the Capitol causing over 1.5 million in damage, actively sought to harm members of Congress, the Speaker, and the Vice President, and were then held accountable according to the laws of these United States. You just can’t even. I’m shaking my head again.

And all of this leads me to where I landed tonight after learning more about the next rally at the Capitol. It leads me to the film As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson, because you just can’t add more crazy to what is already batshit lunacy. If an alien ship were to hover above my house tonight, open its bottom hatch, and turn on its light beam in preparation to suck me into their dimension, I would utter this line from that movie:

“Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Being some of the only truly intelligent life in the universe, they would turn off the light, close the hatch, zip away, and never return. Ain’t nothing to see here, folks.

The Church Of The Blue FJ Cruiser

I like road trips. I enjoy driving, but I also like being a passenger. I like waking up in one state and going to sleep in another. This is why I volunteer for these cross-country road trips. Today, after saying goodbye to Thing One, I drove almost 600 miles from southern Washington to Salt Lake City. And I discovered something I hadn’t realized before. I mean, other than the fact that Idaho is too damn big when you just want to be home. I like to road trip alone at least in part because it is an opportunity to listen to all my favorite music, sing along, and have zero responsibilities other than arriving at my destination safely.

During the course of my day, I checked my messages at various rest stops. What I discovered is that extroverts think road trips are an excuse to have phone conversations with you. I had three phone messages from different extroverted, social friends and family members telling me that they were calling to keep me company while I drive. The first time I heard the recorded message offering to chat with me to keep me company, I laughed out loud. Do these people not know me at all? I don’t like to talk on the phone to begin with. I find talking on the phone while driving a distraction. And I especially think it’s a distraction when what you are distracting me from is the mental peace and quiet that comes with listening to my car stereo loudly enough that the speakers audibly vibrate. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get me out of my head for a few minutes? A solo road trip day is my introvert church. It’s disrespectful to call someone when you know they are at church.

The gold of western hay fields
If you weren’t sure about the drought conditions, this is what eastern Oregon looks like right now
Snake River
Nothing but wildfire haze as far as the eye can see, which isn’t that far

Rat Pizza At A Child Casino

Anyone up for some Skeeball?

Sometimes I see things on Twitter that make me think. Other times I see things on Twitter that make me laugh. But I especially like posts I can relate to. So for everyone who, like me, has been inside of a Chuck E. Cheese, I present this beauty:

You’re welcome.

The Burger Brawl And Pickle Problem

We have two sons who were born three weeks less than two years apart. We have been fortunate. Our sons have been best buddies from Luke’s arrival. I don’t know how. People used to ask how often they fought. The answer was almost never. They like the many of the same things, but they are not alike in personality so they balance each other out. This is not to say that they don’t bicker, debate, tease, or torture one another. It’s just that it’s never been mean spirited. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They look out for each other. They love each other even when they are acting like jerks.

They are 20 and 18 now, which means they are legally grown. And yet their conversations often sound like the ones they’ve had forever. They love to argue about nothing. They have argued about nothing for as long as they’ve been brothers. Tonight in the car on the way home from In-n-Out, they were arguing about burger toppings. Luke, the purest, said the best burger was the basic one, just meat and bun. Joe’s burger choice, Luke said, was too complicated. Joe thought this stance was insane. A burger with pickles is NOT complicated. So, he began hazing Luke about a burger without pickles. The guys despise anything made with vinegar, but for some reason Joe’s vinegar aversion stops at pickles. Luke finds them disgusting. But, Joe has ADHD and that gives him a superhuman focus when he is invested. He was invested in arguing about pickles.

“What is wrong with pickles?” he prodded.

“I don’t want your vinegar cucumber chips,” Luke snapped.

And they were off. Bickering about nothing after a previous argument that was also about nothing…again.

Joe goes back in college in Washington in two weeks. Although I chided them in the car about their constant arguments about nothing, I will miss hearing them. Don’t tell my sons, but those arguments make my heart smile even as they make my mouth grumble. I think it’s because I know that no matter how old they get or how their lives change and grow, they will continue to get together, make each other laugh, drive us crazy, and squabble passionately about pointless things. That’s just what they do. It’s a gift.

I don’t know that Luke will ever like pickles, though. This argument might come up again.

Flipping The Script

While searching my brain for something to write about tonight, I found this gem on Facebook. I love the idea of flipping the script, taking something basic and turning it upside down until it looks a little more intriguing. When I was years and years younger, I did this with my career as stay-at-home mom. I told people I was a “Wildlife Manager,” which was infinitely more descriptive and appropriate. Seriously. Have you ever tried to manage two boys under the age of 5? They are a bit much.

So much of what happens in life is predictable, prescribed, and ordinary. We fall into boxes readily, like cats into taped off squares on the floor, because they make us feel secure. Student. Business professional. Realtor. Doctor. Parent. Dog mother. Athlete. When you meet someone new, what is the first place the conversation naturally flows? “So, where do you work?” If you’re lucky, you get a more nebulous, “What do you do?” We are comfortable when we can rely on these scripts. We feel good about ourselves when can give someone the elevator-chat, ten second version of our life, a version that usually revolves around what we do, not who we are, not what makes us happy or interesting or passionate. I think this is a crime.

I propose that we mix things up. Let’s stop talking about what we do. Let’s start talking about who we are. Wouldn’t a cocktail party be much more interesting if instead of starting with work talk (because who wants to talk about work when not at work, anyway?), we asked what someone’s first concert was or which television character they would invite to dinner if they could. And what if our ten-second, elevator-chat personal description went more like this:

“I’m Justine. As a child, I was terrified of anything having to do with UFOs. I played cymbals in high school marching band. I suck at throwing frisbees. I’m a die-hard introvert, but I love to plan parties that I preferably would not have to attend. Oh, and even though I’m 53, I sleep with a stuffed dog I named Eliot.”

Imagine what we would know about each other, imagine what we would learn about ourselves, if we stopped putting people into boxes based on religion, politics, and career and began talking to each other as if we were all the unique, interesting individuals we are. What barriers might we break down? What assumptions about others might we lose? I think if we started flipping the script, we might be able to raise the level of discourse in this country. Let’s re-enchant life by focusing on the parts of our human experiences that make life worth living.

The Hummingbird Parallel

Hummingbird haiku

I was sitting on the back deck today as a hummingbird blew past me on the way to our feeder. I love watching them, so I was grateful when we finally got this feeder up and less than an hour later we had a visitor. I gazed at this speedy creature, mesmerized by its grace and fluidity as its wings fluttered at 53 beats per second, and then it whizzed past me again. It was gone. I realized then what a hummingbird reminds me of. A hummingbird is basically a teenage boy. He’s invisible most of the time. You can’t find him when you are looking for him. But when you put food out, he shows up, blowing past you as if you are of no concern. He devours what you offer. And then the teenage boy, like the hummingbird with its belly full, is gone again. But don’t worry. He always needs food, and as long you provide it you will occasionally catch a glimpse of him, no matter how ephemeral it might be.