Amphibian Tragedies

July 21, 2010

Since I was a child, I have always had a deep interest, love & fascination with animals. Of course, the cute and cuddly kittens & puppies, the tiny little hamsters and adorable bunny rabbits kept my attention as a young girl, because – well, that’s just across the board in my opinion. As I’ve grown older, and have experienced different parts of the world, my fascination has expanded to other things, like frogs, lizards, birds.

 Living in Florida is like living in a giant terrarium, the wildlife that surrounds me in the suburbs (or the city, for that matter) is nothing short of breath-taking. For example, every early Summer the baby tree frogs make their appearance on our back windows & sliding glass doors. I first notice them in the evening, tiny lime green translucent bodies plastered all over the glass awaiting the night fall which is bound to bring the flying insects attracted to our back porch light, or the light escaping from our windows into the back yard.


Every evening, I have sat and watched these little guys as they capture food and grow and commune with each other in their joint efforts to survive and thrive in the wild wild wilderness of the outdoors. And during the day while waiting for Pieter to finish his business outside, I watch as they slumber in the shade created by the door jamb.  And I know it sounds like an over-statement that I literally SIT and WATCH these little buggers as they do nothing but breathe and eat and crap all over my windows, but I assure you this is the truth. (Seriously, what else am I supposed to do? And there’s really only so many hours a girl can occupy herself with the trash on television.)

Occasionally, while letting the dog outside to relieve himself, one of my tree frog friends will get confused of the sudden door movement and accidentally find himself on my kitchen floor, so I quickly scoop him up and show him back outside where he belongs. Every few days, I’ll walk by the back door into the kitchen and see one of them in a peculiar or interesting body position and call for the City Boy to come take a look. He usually doesn’t bother – and I feel sorry for him to miss out on the wonder that is Nature.  What must THAT be like, to not even care?!?

Over the past few weeks, the congregation of tree frogs has dwindled significantly. What used to be 20-30 bodies, is now limited to about 4 or 5 on a good night. Now, this could be due to the fact they’re growing bigger and have gone in search of a larger food supply, or perhaps a good number have died for various reasons, I am not sure. Regardless, I do realize their first Summer is probably their hardest, so I’ve always strived to help out (or work very hard not to HINDER their survival chances) in any way possible.

So, today after letting the dog back inside from doing his business I went to pull the sliding glass door closed, and something stopped it from closing all the way. I checked to make sure the curtains hadn’t gotten caught in the track, and then tried again. Still wouldn’t close. On the third try, I really slammed it shut, and just right as the door had left my grasp and any chance of regaining control of the door, I glanced up and saw what I had done. Apparently, one of my almost full-grown tree frogs had been resting between the two glass doors, and the sudden movement of the door jarred him from his position at the top of the doors. He fell onto the door track where I quickly crushed him with the weight of the door being pulled over the track. I honestly cannot even tell you how devastating this was to me.  I feel as though I have murdered a friend.

Now, here I was: faced with my crime, still not able to close the door (there was about a 1” gap that could not be sealed), and now unable to reach the broken and twisted body of the frog (I only HOPE that he was truly dead at this point) I had been admiring and caring for these past few months. My day, until this point, was productive yet still frustrating and sad. And when I realized my responsibility in this innocent frog’s tragic and painful demise it was too much to bear. I needed consoling, so I thought my husband would know what to say, or could perhaps at least give me an idea how to get the damn door shut. He sounded sympathetic, but I could also hear that “other” part of his voice that couldn’t believe I was sobbing over a “stupid frog”. After several failed attempts I opened the door a bit wider, which exposed the frogs lifeless feet. Taking hold of his feet, I could feel how heavy he had grown (which only intensified my sadness. This frog was one of the SURVIVORS! He had beat the odds and was going to make it!!), and quickly I was able to free him from the door track and threw him into the yard.

The sobbing continued until I laid down on the couch to nap it off. Several minutes later, the City Boy did call back to check how I was holding up. Although some (and probably my own spouse) think it’s ridiculous to care one bit about a dead tree frog, I cannot understand that. I mean, not only is their entire life cycle completely amazing, but they’re really beautiful little animals and they serve a big purpose (my yard has MUCH less mosquitoes right now than there were a month ago, let me tell you!).

So while I am still terribly saddened by the loss of my tree frog this afternoon, I am also hoping that my daughter adopts my love of animals and not her father’s indifference to them. I really pray that when I tell her about the different animals and the neat and gross things they do, that her eyes will light up with interest and not glaze over like her father’s do.

In the meantime, here is a haiku to my Tree Frog Friend: 

I cared for my Friend

Until I killed him one day

Treacherous glass door


Remembering So I Won’t Forget

July 20, 2010

I heard over the weekend that my great-aunt Olive Mae (pronounced Olla-May) passed away. She was the sister of my paternal grandfather, Donald, who also passed away February 28th of this year. Aunt Olive Mae had seven children, in typical Catholic style of the 1950’s and lived in a tiny little house in Newport, KY with her husband Bob, until he passed away probably 12-15 years ago. According to my mother, she had trouble swallowing and it was determined she had stomach cancer. I think she was in the hospital for several days, and was sent home Thursday. She died the next day, July 16, 2010.

It’s funny how kids’ imaginations operate. Perhaps because my grandfather’s name was Donald, I always had this cartoon image of he and his sister with the likeness of Donald Duck. As if they were the siblings of Donald Duck, and because of this image over the years I really thought they both resembled the cartoons. I’ve never mentioned this to another living soul in my life, and I can just see my sister’s face scowling at me as she imagines this. (Don’t ask me why kids think of the things they do, or why as adults we don’t shed these preposterous ideas.)

I remember seeing Aunt Olive Mae and her giant family mostly throughout the 1990’s decade. That was when her husband was still alive, my great-grandmother (her mother) was still alive and living until 1992 or so which brought us all together more often, her youngest son Richard got married, there was a large family reunion one summer, several funerals, and a few picnics scattered here and there. She was always a boisterous and happy woman, and her grandkids really loved her.

Despite all the “less than positive” things that I can say about my own grandfather, her brother, I don’t know anything undesirable about Aunt Olive Mae, although I’m sure there’s something … there always is. She was just a truly pleasant woman who really loved her family, and especially babied her brother Donald.

The last time I saw Aunt Olive Mae was at the funeral reception of my grandfather in the first week of March this year. Actually, now that I think of it, I spent more time with her and her son Richard than with any other family members. Something just drew me to her, and I remember sitting with the two of them while I held my nephew Brooks on my lap. She really enjoyed watching the baby as he played with her keys or with the small objects I tried to distract him with. It was clear then that she was aging, and I don’t believe she remembered the tedious detail of my actual name, but she knew who I belonged to, which was plenty enough for me. We had a pleasant conversation and I am so thankful that I spent that time with her.

I wish I had more detailed stories to share about Aunt Olive Mae, but the best my memory can conjure up is seeing her laugh at stories being told by someone in the family. Her eyes danced, and although she was a very maternal woman, she wasn’t soft at all. She was a no nonsense mother of seven, raised during the Depression, so she wasn’t a coddler. But, she did know how to have fun, which was evident when watching her interact with the younger generations. I recall her dancing at a wedding reception, or joining in on a balloon toss game during a Fourth of July family picnic, and that laugh. There’s no sound quite so melodic as a person with a sincere happiness and joy as they laugh with those they adore.

And it has dawned on me now that our children will not know their Great-Grandfather Donald, or their Great-Great-Aunt Olive Mae. These are pieces of their history that will be lost. Who else from my own library of wonderful family members will be lost to my kids? Who else will they miss out on? I sincerely hope and pray that everyone else just stops and waits for mine to catch up and meet them. There’s not a person in my family (or Wen’s) that I want my kids to miss out on … especially their great-grandparents. And what happens when my own great-grandchildren and great-great nieces and nephews hear stories or see pictures of me. I’ll be “just another face” or just another old lady their parents may (or may not even) talk about.

I suppose that’s the importance in memories. Even though I can’t remember any specific, detailed story of Aunt Olive Mae, I certainly remember that laugh, on more than one occasion. I think I’d rather incite memories of fondness such as these than any drawn out story to be told over Thanksgiving dinner in 100 years, and hopefully I’ll be able to provide just that.

Lunacy On The Record

July 19, 2010

I know I am certainly not the only one who has heard, or has an opinion, about the recent release of Mel Gibson’s rant against his baby mama. But this is an issue I have some (unfortunate) experience with, so I’m going to weigh in on some of the ignorant and annoying comments I’ve heard on the radio and television.

Obviously, I don’t live with Mel Gibson or his girlfriend. I don’t know EXACTLY or with 100% assurance that I’ve figured out their problems, but I have a very strong hunch about what the bulk of the issue is, and why his girlfriend Oksana sounded so calm when dealing with him on the recording she sold to the press. It’s all about experience.

I heard the recording of Mel and his outraged screaming at Oksana as I was on my way to drop the City Boy off at work this week. Fox Sports was on XM radio, and the City Boy and I debated our views on the spectacle. It annoyed me that the radio personalities laughed and scoffed the way they did. Instantly finding humor in a situation that is so abusive and dangerous. Had Mel been cracking a whip or snapping a belt at the woman, would they have laughed at that? Why is it that we, as a society, don’t merit emotional or verbal abuse as severe as the kind that leaves physical bruises?

I was in a 10-year relationship with someone who suffered from mental illness, and when I heard Mel and his hysterics I was instantly transported to the innumerable times when I was sitting face to face with a person who was so enraged nothing coming out of their mouth made sense, but the one thing certain was my need to remain calm. Often times, I felt as if my life depended upon keeping a clear head. The one thing a situation like that does NOT need is two maniacs running purely on emotions.

The Fox Sports personalities made comments this week along the lines of, “Well, we don’t know what buttons Oksana was just pushing to PUT Mel in that frame of mind …” To which I say, Really? Here’s what I know. When dealing with people with so much internal, pent-up anger and rage issues it really could be anything and it doesn’t matter WHAT she did to him. A person should have more control over themselves. Once, I saw my ex-husband fly into a complete rage due to a mis-communication of terminology used in a Seinfeld episode. It was incredibly jarring how an innocent conversation could erupt into the spewing of vile comments from him. Suddenly, I was ugly and stupid, could do nothing right. You cannot reason with someone in this state of mind. My only recourse was to be the calm one and wait for the fire in his face to fade. Then, excuse myself once it was safe to do so, or ignore the incident completely.

The first few times this occurred, I was hurt. I was shocked at the sudden change of atmosphere, and maybe I cried – I can’t remember. After that, I hardened to it. When I felt the air change and his expression resemble something maniacal I braced myself. While he was busy screaming or slamming his fists into a table, trying to break me down I stood firm, but remained fairly quiet. Sometimes I would completely shut out what it was he was saying (because it was all a bunch of crap anyway) and just think to myself how sick he really was. “This is a sick and pathetic person. And here he sits thinking he’s superior to me? How is that? He can’t even control himself over a ridiculous disagreement about what to have for dinner.”

I won’t get into my entire lifestyle while living with this man. The whole purpose of this post isn’t even to air my own dirty laundry, although – Oops! I just want to say SOMETHING in response to the people who have never really dealt with a personality like this. Assuming that the lunacy I heard in Mel Gibson’s voice was indeed the same as what I witnessed time and time again with my ex, I can assure you that his girlfriend recorded the tirade for two possible reasons: 1.) so she can replay it for him later. My ex would often later down-play his tantrum as if he was just blowing off steam, or maybe raised his voice a little too much. I often wished I had a tape recorder nearby so he could HEAR how crazy he got, once he cooled off. 2.) For proof in a custody fight. One mistake Oksana made that I was smart enough to avoid was having a child with Mel. He’s a powerful man, and even if he wasn’t, she will need proof of his behavior, of the way he handles conflict, of the environment he creates for his child in any upcoming legal battles for custody of the child. 4.) For evidence in the event she ends up dead in the near future.

And lastly, some of the radio personalities scoffed at how calm and controlled she remained during the recorded tirade. To which I say, “Hello People! When you are in a cage with a raging bear, your best bet is to remain calm if you expect to get out alive, am I right?” People who put those they love in these outrageous situations are doing it for several reasons, but the main reason is to exert control. They want to see their target fall to pieces. They want to SEE that they have won, and that THEY are superior, THEY are in charge. Somehow, I instinctively knew this in my own past relationship, and told myself that if I was going to put up with the behavior I sure as hell wasn’t going to crumble to it. And later he would even TELL me that he just wants to get a reaction out of me. Plus, I was no idiot. Just because he had delusions of me being some sort of monster of a person doesn’t mean that it was true, or that I had to listen to it. Remaining calm is what shifts the power balance in the situation. By staying emotionally stable and rational, you ultimately end this specific battle with dignity – regardless of what the idiot across the table is spewing your way.

Wow, what a rant. I really was surprised at my own reaction to listening to the conversation last week. It was like an audio time machine, and I was instantly back in that house, with that person, in that moment when I thought “well, he’s either going to wear himself out, or he’s going to get violent.” No way to live, let me tell you. And now that I’m married to the antithesis of that man from my past, I see how devastating it is for anyone to tolerate abuse like that. It isn’t funny (as the gossip columnists and TMZ-types will lead you to believe), the threats, the disrespect, the hateful words, the uncontrolled anger – it’s devastating to a person’s psyche, and it should be taken more seriously than just, “Well that Mel Gibson sure has a mouth on him!”, or “Look what happens when Mel drinks too much!”.  Okay, I’m finished with this topic entirely.  I’m just sayin’ …

Hot & Bothered in Orlando writes:

July 11, 2010

Here I sit, on a cloudy, overcast and humid Florida day on my couch, sweating profusely and surrounded by 3 fans all blowing in vain the 86 degree air about the room in effort to simulate a chill. Needless to say, it isn’t working and my sunny disposition is waning.

Our AC is broken. I spoke with our repairman this morning, and he informed me we will need a new outdoor unit and I’m expecting his call in the morning with a quote for such an item. This is not good.

Add to that, yesterday while I was EN ROUTE to sell my car at the local CarMax dealership, it started making an odd noise. I thought maybe it best to stop at the dealership and see if they could tell me what was wrong. They promptly shook their heads and told me I shouldn’t even drive it off the lot. It seems my water pump was mere moments from taking its final breaths … fitting isn’t it? The DAY I’m on my way to sell it – literally, ON MY WAY to sell it, and this happens?!?

So, it’s been an expensive and stressful and incredibly hot and muggy weekend. The dealership wants to charge me $800+ for a new pump, but once I got home yesterday (my friend had to come pick me up) I hopped right on Craigslist and found a mobile repair guy who will come to the house and replace it for $180 — sure, it sounds a little “too good to be true”, but I’m willing to take the chance. The guy sounds knowledgable and I think he works in a traditional shop – this must be a side gig for him.

Now, if only I could get that lucky with the AC unit. In the meantime, I’ll be sticky with sweat and bitter with bitchiness in this heat. The City Boy was smart and opted to escape the heat (and his miserable wife) and take refuge at the gym for a bit. When he returns we will try to spend the afternoon in the pool, as long as the rain holds off.

Isn’t it amazing how fast your spirits can turn from happy to the depths of despair? I swear, three days ago I was sitting at the salon enjoying my first ever pedicure with my out of town friend, Kim. We laughed, we told stories, we spoke of our excitement bringing our girls home in October. And now? Now, I’m just a cross and crotchety fat girl, sweltering in the heat.

Maybe a nap will add a little charm so the City Boy won’t drown me at the pool today.