Tuesday, August 15, 2017

World Garden War 1/2

The codependency of my plants is really getting out of hand.

I used to think my animals got pissy when they didn't get enough attention.

The last couple weeks, I've been outside every night after nine with a flashlight, taking out bugs that have decided to take up shop in my muskmelons. Leave those bastards alone for one night and the melon plants get gnawed down to little more than sticks.

Now that's codependent.

It all started with the monsoon that blew through my town a couple of weeks ago. July in Wyoming is usually hot and dry, creeping into the nineties and triple digits. Things suffer in the heat and need to be watered regularly.

Muskmelons and cucumbers thrive in the heat. They soak up that sun like tanning bed addicts. Of course they still need water as do the rest of my plants, so the area in which they sit is usually slightly damp from all the watering I do.

 My monthly water bill is on the wrong side of fifty dollars.

When I first moved in I paid forty dollars every two months.

I'm not sure how the city is justifying this, but whatever. I water a lot, but not that much.

One morning I noticed holes in the leaves of my muskmelons. There were holes in my cucumber leaves too, but that was because of the hail that came along with the monsoon. Driving rain also came along with the monsoon, and that whole week had been rainy and pretty wet.

Imagine my horror when I went out one night and my fence was just covered in slugs.

I have a solid white aluminum fence. Perfect for slithering over as it's a smooth surface. I scattered slug pellets all around my plants, but apparently it wasn't deterring the party raging on the fence.

Slugs can decimate a garden in a couple of nights. That many slugs can decimate a garden in a matter of hours.

So I got out the big guns. More slug pellets and a spray bottle filled with water and vinegar. I went out there and just took out the fence in streams of vinegar water, target-popping each slug and sending them sliding into the dirt as they died. Apparently their sticky slime doesn't hold up well in vinegar, and who the hell wants slug slime all over their fence anyway?

GROSS.

At least they were small, even if there were fifty or sixty of them. On the west coast I'm told they grow to the size of small cats.

It was remarkably satisfying, aiming that spray bottle at each slug and taking it out. The next morning while it was still damp I went out again and picked off the survivors.

Yet, holes still appeared in my muskmelon leaves. I had to step up my preventative tactics. The slug pellets work, but not nearly as well as is bragged about on the bag. I also set out beer traps, trellised my cucumbers, and surrounded them with dog hair (apparently slugs can't slither over hair). Then I did some research.

Turns out while slugs were a nuisance around my plants (and my fence), what was actually going after my muskmelons was earwigs, or pincer bugs. They chomp holes into leaves, strip the leaf stems, and they can decimate a garden in a few days too, if there is enough of them. Plus they love damp conditions, and with all the rain, I'm probably harboring a small city of them somewhere.

Once again I went online to find out how to combat these little pests. According to my friend Google, you can kill the little bastards by luring them into oil traps seasoned with soy sauce. The soy sauce attracts them and when they fall into the oil it gums up their works and they drown.

It didn't work.

What did work? Well, just like the slugs, beer worked great. In the evenings I can go out there, shake the leaves of my melon plants, and a bunch of the little jerks fall out. Then they discover the beer which I set out in shallow plastic plates, and it's goodbye pincer bugs.

Now every evening I put out shallow plastic trays, fill them with beer, and wait for morning. The last few mornings I've found dead slugs, dead pincer bugs, and dead wasps floating around in my beer. The beer is discarded into the rosebush and everyone's happy.

Especially me as I still have my melons.

I had an issue with grasshoppers too for a while. One day they were everywhere, jumping around, climbing up the long grass that grows along my fence, and the next day I noticed the herd had been considerably thinned. I thought at first it was Tess, as she likes to snap up things that fly around. It's one of her games. She chases flies, wasps, and grasshoppers, and snaps them up. She's done this for years, and never been stung. She's the reason I don't have yellow jackets building nests under my deck anymore, as one summer I came home from work and the deck was littered with yellow jacket carcasses.

I'm not the only one declaring war on pesky insects. My dog is at it, too.

The only thing I don't like about this little dog quirk is the occasional snap she takes at a big fat bumblebee. I'm sad to say she has killed one before. They just can't get their big fat butts into the air fast enough to get away from her.

Not okay, dog.

Anyway, the grasshoppers pretty much disappeared from my yard, and I couldn't figure out what had gotten them until the other night when this cute little black snake bolted across my foot and under the cucumber tub.

Most people would have screamed. I was all, "Oh, aren't you just the cutest thing?"

Some people hate spiders and snakes. Me? I love them. I especially love them in my garden.

I went ahead and named him Hiss.

I was also thrilled to discover more little jumping spiders crawling around on the cucumber plants and taking care of the vermin there. I still remember a few summers ago when I was weeding one of my raised beds, and here came this rather large spider just dragging a grasshopper carcass along behind him.

It's deadly out there.

So beware, slugs, pincer bugs, and grasshoppers! There's Hiss the Snake, Tess the dog, plenty of spiders, a collection of shallow plates filled with beer, and me and my spray bottle of vinegar just waiting to take you all out.

Let the war begin.

Who knew gardening was such a bloodbath?

 

My pride and joy - six muskmelons!



And some carrots!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

War of the Roses

I might have codependent pets, but I also have codependent plants.

Actually, I think I'm the codependent one when it comes to the plants.

My mood shifts from sad to happy as soon as I see my petunias. It physically hurts every time I have to shear them down halfway in order to prevent "legginess" and to encourage the plants to bloom more. When I went on vacation for a week I had to cut all the blooms off and trim the stems halfway because I knew the Cowboy would not deadhead them while I was gone and I didn't want the plants to die.

I cried.

Rationally I know they grow back, but it still hurts me to cut beautiful flowers off when they are just exploding in blooming color.

It makes my deck look happy.

I landscaped my backyard several years ago and had plants put in along the border of the fence. I also planted a crabapple tree in the corner. That tree died at the end of last fall and the winter did nothing to revive it. When spring hit this year, it remained a skeletal statue of broken twigs with no leaves. Usually by mid-May it would sprout beautiful reddish/purple leaves and start bearing fruit by June. I'm not sure what happened to it, but sadly, it had to be chopped down.

Meanwhile, it had inadvertently reproduced. I had a tiny crapapple twig sticking out of the ground in May and after watering it all summer, it is now a good three feet high and getting bushy with leaves.

Every summer I attempt to plant a garden, and usually I yield a few carrots, some peas, and maybe a cucumber or two. This year, I planted four cucumber plants, four muskmelon plants, some radishes, some peas, and several types of herbs. I have about eight carrots. The radishes became food for pincer bugs, and although the cucumber plants are busy and beautiful and popping with flowers, I have all of three cucumbers trying to grow, and none of them the size they should be by now.

The muskmelons are doing the best. I have six melons all bigger than a softball, and I'm out there in my yard constantly, arranging their vines on trellises, watering them, rearranging the melons themselves so that they don't strain their vines, and eliminating pests as they attempt to destroy all my hard work.

It's exhausting, but I'm attached to those damn muskmelon plants.

My favorite plant is this crazy wild rosebush in my front garden. It's right up against the front of the house and it came with the property when I moved in fifteen years ago. At that time I rented, and I didn't pay much attention. The thing took care of itself, reviving every spring and blooming rose blossoms from mid June through August, and sometimes into September. I rarely watered it, but it didn't seem to care, and no snowstorm, windstorm, or burning 90 degree heat seemed to faze it.

After I bought the place I started taking care of it more, mostly because I admired how hardy it was
and I felt a little bad for not caring for it. I started to water it in the summers, particularly when it got really hot. Also, the Cowboy had planted other plants around it that need to be watered constantly so the rosebush reaped the benefits of that. Someone also told me that rosebushes love beer. One year after a particularly harsh winter when I wasn't sure the bush survived, I dumped a huge can of cheap beer on it, and within a week that thing exploded. Since then it gets a can of beer every year and also my coffee grounds daily.

It has flourished.

If it won't die lacking water and being beat on by dry hot sun, imagine what happens to this thing when it's actually being nurtured?

It took over.

The Cowboy had to get in there with shears and trim it back before it covered my kitchen window and crawled across the front lawn.

And since my lawn isn't big, it would have been crawling into the neighbor's lawn. I doubt they'd appreciate that because the thorns on this thing are wicked.  It acts like the perfect barrier against deer and rabbits for my tulips. The tulips grow right underneath the rosebush and nothing bothers those.

Over the last fifteen years I've become extremely attached to this thing. Added to the fact that it just won't die barring a nuclear winter (and even then I think this is the only thing that would survive), it's just a neat bush. It's not like those hothouse roses or domestic rosebushes. You can't buy these plants at the nursery or Home Depot. I don't know where it came from since it's been in my front yard since I moved in, but it's crazy, wild, and out of control. The guy at the feed store told me it's probably one of those old throwback bushes that grow wild in the mountains.

That makes me like it more.

I like to think of it has the protector of the house.

Wild rosebushes are said to repel vampires, like garlic and crosses.

It's not doing a very good job since California Guy still manages to cross the threshold, but hey, legend says, so it must be true on some level.

Now being faced with the possibility of maybe selling my house and moving, I'm in a conundrum. I refuse to leave this bush behind. The other plants are replaceable, but this rosebush has sentimental value, and let's face it, it's like one of my pets. No one will be able to care for it like I do, and true, it seems to do just fine on it's own, but still. We've become pals. We've bonded.

So California Guy had the bright idea of trying to clone it. When the time comes I might still hire a professional to dig it up and help me transplant it, but meanwhile, in case that doesn't work, I'd like to at least take some part of it with me. 

We bought some cloning gel, followed the directions, and tried to clone three branches from the bush.

We did it wrong and they all dried out and died.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried again. The directions aren't that hard. You find a branch with a spent bloom and snip it about 8 inches at a 45% angle. You dip the clipped end into cloning gel and plant it in a container with fluffy soft planting soil, the bottom lined with rocks. Then you spritz it with water, put it in a bucket and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure to keep the stem leaves moist at all times. It requires several spritzings a day. Set it in indirect light so it doesn't cook in the sun and cross your fingers.

So far both clippings are still alive. Despite my fussing and checking and rearranging the plastic wrap over the bucket, the clippings are actually thriving.

I can't seem to leave shit alone and just let it do its thing. The clippings would probably develop roots a lot faster if I'd just leave them alone and go away.

I have to say, I was skeptical reading the directions. Does this actually work? Coupled with the fact that we killed the last three we tried this with, I really didn't know how this last one would make out. We made some bad mistakes with the first three though. California Guy took them home which was a two hour drive so they dried out and started to die then. And then when he put them in a box and wrapped them, they just couldn't stay wet enough because the plastic wrap wouldn't cooperate.

I discovered the bucket was much easier rather than a box. With two clippings in there, it works like a greenhouse.

I have one more month to do this as the bush will continue to bloom through August and I can still get my hands on spent blooms. I have visions of cloning ten of these guys and planting them everywhere I go.

Otherwise it's another year before I can entertain the idea of moving as I will not leave this bush behind.

It's my baby.

But if these two twigs I have survive and actually become Rosebush 2.0 then I will definitely believe that nothing can kill this bush.

It'll be the cockroach of plants.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Rosebush 2.0 - it reminds me a little of Baby Groot


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Just Want a Cheeseburger!

I might be one of those annoying, pretentious people on a special diet, but I have to grudgingly admit that I think it's actually working.

Who knew? What you put in your body actually has an affect on how you feel and look.

Crazy.

Two weeks on this ridiculous diet and I am already starting to feel better. Everything they promise you when cutting out wheat, grains, sugar, processed foods, and chemicals actually does happen. Your skin clears up, the brain fog dissipates, you lose weight, the bloating deflates, and the energy returns. And if one has issues with halitosis, it clears that up too, because Candida and the bacteria from oversugared foods is what causes bad breath, even if you brush your teeth three times a day.

The only thing that does not happen as they say is the cravings go away.

That's a load of crap.

I've been very good about sticking to the diet, mostly because I threw away everything I can't have to get rid of the temptation, but visions of cake, chocolate, specialty coffees, and ice cream still dance through my dreams at night.

The other night I decided I'd been so good and I could only give up three vices at once, so I caved and had a glass of white wine.

I waited with breath that was bated for my stomach to balloon up and turn me into a pseudo pregnant lump again.

Nothing happened. I enjoyed my wine immensely and did not turn into a pufferfish.

Here is a typical day for me. It starts with a handful of supplements, the main ones being berberine and a probiotic to help with the tummy issues, and a cup of bone broth. Then I usually eat hard boiled eggs or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with berries for breakfast. I'm usually not hungry by lunch because I snack on carrots, celery with almond butter, nuts and seeds, and a square of 86 or 72% cacao chocolate (and truth be told I'm getting damned sick of that shit - I MISS MY MILK CHOCOLATE!) For dinner I make some kind of meat with olive oil (no butter for me) and a salad or steamed vegetable or baked root vegetable or something.

I'm starving to death.

Just kidding. I have a tendency to be dramatic.

I can't have coffee so I drink tea, but I'm here to tell you, tea is just not as satisfying as coffee.  And it's doubly unfair because I never put sugar in my coffee, and if I have to cut out all sugar, why does that include my sacred morning coffee?

Oh, yeah. I have to cut out caffeine.

Oh, poop.

I do cheat foodwise. I made curry the other night. Everything in it was on the list of okay foods except the tomato sauce. I'm not supposed to have tomatoes and definitely not tomato sauce in a jar.

The curry was delicious. It was worth it. I did pay for it, though.

Twenty years ago, you couldn't find anything gluten free, let alone anything with limited ingredients. Now, instead of potato chips there are sweet potato chips baked with only coconut oil and salt. Instead of saltines and Wheat Thins (oh, Wheat Thins, how I miss you), you can get sprouted crackers made with seeds, sprouts, and rosemary and thyme.

Not even kidding.

I didn't think I could find a cracker not made of grains. Gluten free crackers are made with rice. But these sprouted crackers don't have a single grain or processed ingredient.

And quinoa seems to be the "new thing." Instead of rice or pasta, just whip up a batch of this stuff and it's like rice or even couscous.

Speaking of pasta, I found pea flour pasta made from 100% peas and buckwheat pasta. Most gluten free pastas are made of rice or corn, and the quinoa pasta is half corn. I can't have corn or rice or any other grains except quinoa and buckwheat.

How lucky is that?

Twenty years ago I would have really starved to death. But now there are so many choices. I don't have to just live on grilled salmon and sauteed spinach with asparagus.

There's never been a better time to be pretentious and on a special diet.

The thing is, with all of these healthy substitutes, it's still never going to be the same. Sweet potato chips are delicious, but they do not hit the spot when one just wants a bagful of greasy potato chips. I like the Boulder Canyon potato chips cooked in olive oil, and while they are better than Ruffles, they do still bother my stomach.

And stove popped popcorn in olive oil? Yummy. But they do not beat the movie theater popcorn with fake butter drizzled all over it.

Also, popcorn bothers my stomach.

My huge weakness is fries. I love fries. Sweet potato fries are good, but sometimes a good old plate of greasy diner French fries is the only thing that will ease the craving. This last weekend all I really wanted was a cheeseburger. I ended up settling for vegetable stir-fry with venison and quinoa, and it was very good, but it was not a cheeseburger. I also got to have wine with it, but the wine wasn't very good.

I should have cheated with an ice cream bar instead. Red wine at least has some heart healthy something or other that winos like me think makes it legit to indulge in. Meanwhile, ice cream has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. So when I cheat, I cheat with wine rather than sugar-laden ice cream, and tell myself at least the wine is sort of healthy.

Sure it is.

I tried coconut whipped cream in a desperate attempt to get some kind of whipped yummy goodness. Forget it. I just ended up with stirred coconut milk. Coconut milk is good, and I didn't mind it poured over my strawberries, but it wasn't whipped cream.

Also so much coconut milk did make my stomach hurt.

It is possible to overdo "healthy."

Everything in moderation right?

Although, my big secret is that I baked a loaf of my mother's homemade gluten-saturated bread for California Guy this weekend and I actually had a small piece of it.

Don't tell my doctor.

I don't know if it's the two weeks on a strict diet of roughage and protein, or the daily cup of bone broth, but my stomach actually accepted this deviant piece of bread with no complaints.

I may one day be able to digest small amounts of gluten again without looking like I'm ready to pop out twins. If I stick to mostly healthy eating, indulge in "bad foods" only occasionally, and drink my bone broth, my stomach will heal itself to the point where I won't be as gluten sensitive.

I can have cupcakes again!

Someday...

Again, everything in moderation.

I doubt, however, that I will ever be able to digest fast food or most processed foods again. That ship has sailed. But I will willingly give all that up permanently if the light at the end of the tunnel says I can indulge in homemade bread, the occasional croissant, or a cupcake.

Then I will eat my kale and broccoli with zero complaints.



Two typical dinners for someone restricted to my diet.
Definitely not a cheeseburger...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The World's Worst Cat Litter

I am fed up with my cat litter.

Remember the World's Best Cat Litter and how amazing it was when I first tried it out?

Yeah, not so much anymore.

Somewhere between falling in love with this litter and Percy developing the habit of digging in his litter box, flinging litter everywhere, I realized that I actually hate this World's Best Cat Litter, and it's not the world's best anything.

In the last few months I've become increasingly annoyed with small tan colored granules scattered all over my floors and furniture, and even in places that are nowhere near the litter boxes.  

Like the toilet.

I find myself going to the bathroom, reaching down to lift the toilet lid, and realizing there is litter scattered across it.

The bathtub has also been collecting litter granules, but that's because Percy enjoys sleeping in the tub in ninety degree weather. 

I step in piles of litter constantly because the cats track them across the tile floors, and I have even started picking it out of the carpets.

This is just the nature of litter. Any litter one uses for their cats will get tracked all over the house unless one uses litter mats. I cannot use litter mats because Willow pees on them rather than dragging her ass into the box. It must just be easier to squat on the floor outside the litter box, but she won't do it on the bare floor. She'll pee on the carpet, the litter mats, newspaper, but if the floor is bare she will actually make the effort to get into the box and do her business there.

Go figure.

Litter tracking and piles getting kicked out of the box by Percy are annoying enough, but as the months passed I realized that my house always smelled like a feed store. At first I thought it was the pet food sitting out. I'd walk out of my bedroom (where scented candles are usually lit), and suddenly notice, in the absence of Hawaiian/floral/coconut scent, that my house had this musty, almost stable smell. It didn't smell like animals had been peeing or pooping around, yet it definitely smelled like animals live in my house. I'd get the same whiff when I'd come home from work or go inside after being outside for an hour, watering my plants.

It drove me nuts.

Everyday I'd sniff around trying to figure out, why the hell does my house smell like a barn? 

One day it hit me. It smelled like chicken feed. California Guy raises chickens so I'd been getting a whiff of chicken feed most weekends, and my house smelled like it had containers full of it.

Turns out it did. I had four litter boxes filled to the brim with the Worlds' Best Cat Litter which is made of corn. It says right on the bag - made of corn. I literally had four containers set strategically around the house full of corn which is essentially what all barnyard animals are fed.

No wonder my house smelled like a feed store. 

The bag says "Unscented."  Yeah, sure. Unscented as far as no added smells, but there is no way to mask that corn feed smell. 

The bag also says clumping, flushable, super absorbent, 99% dust free. That's a lot of crap too. Dust free? My ass. I was constantly sneezing with that shit lying around (and it was lying around EVERYWHERE in my house). Super absorbent maybe, but clumping? No way. 

Well, it may not be the litter's fault it doesn't clump at my house. My cats pee, create a clump, and then scratch and scratch until they've pulverized the clumps and scraped all the litter into a big mound in one corner of the box.

The litter is definitely flushable, but my cats shit and pee so much I'd be flushing all day long, and my water bill would be through the roof. It's also a serious waste of water in a climate that is dry.

Having had enough of this garbage (since I was sneezing myself off the couch and getting tired of living in a barn), I decided to go litter shopping AGAIN. I won't go back to clay litter because I still would like to be somewhat environmentally responsible. I looked at some crystal litter which is supposed to be super absorbent as well and dust free. The litter looked like it might be too sharp and painful on precious kitty's paws, and since I have finally gotten Willow to use the litter box again and stop peeing on the floor, I don't want anything to encourage litter box aversion.

I ended up picking up a bag of Blue Buffalo's BLUE Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter made of walnut shells.

I suppose if my house is going to smell of food, I'd rather it have a pleasant faint nutty aroma.

Besides, walnut shells might be a bit brilliant.  I mean what do you do with the shells after you've devoured the walnuts? Make little turtles out of them (half a walnut shell does look a little like a turtle shell)? And even then there's only so many turtles you can make.

I mixed half the walnut litter with half the corn litter and already noticed a large decrease in feed store smell in my house, though I did detect that pleasant faint nutty aroma. I was worried the cats would protest, but they all hopped right in one after another and did their business without a care in the world.

To be fair this litter tracks just as badly as the corn stuff. Now instead of tan granules strewn everywhere, I have dark chocolate brown crumbs everywhere. It does clump, maybe better than the other stuff, but my cats still have their scratch fests, so some of clumps still disintegrate. Maybe not as much, though. The worst part about this litter is that it's so dark. If not for the clumps and the poop shaped piles, I wouldn't be able to figure out what to scoop to clean it out.

So far it doesn't smell and the cats seem fine with it. I'm lucky my cats aren't such divas that every time I change the litter they go into a royal hissy fit. Some cats are so high maintenance about their litter boxes that changing the litter takes two months and excessive drama. It causes pouting and litter box aversion. My cats might be divas about everything else, but as long as there is a litter box for them to poop in, they're fine with whatever is in it.

I know this because in the time I've owned these cats I've gone from wood pellets to newspaper pellets to the World's Best (Worst) Cat Litter to this walnut business.

If this shit doesn't work out we will be trying yet another litter.

Eventually everyone will get rousted outside to a designated sandbox, and they can poop in that.

Another reason to move to the beach.

Can you imagine if humans had this problem with their toilets? All I need in my toilet bowl is water and bleach. It doesn't make my house stink, it's easy to clean, and I don't track what's in the toilet all over the house.

At least I hope I don't.

Who knew going to the bathroom was so dramatic? 

It's too soon to tell the verdict on the walnut litter. I have hopes, and I am happy that at least the feed store smell in my house has been solved, but I do still have my reservations about the walnut stuff.

I'm just not sure what I'll try next if this stuff doesn't work out.


The new stuff


In a shameless plug, please check out this book on sale August 8 for my published story about Puckett.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"It's a Service Dog!"

At the risk of backlash and sounding like an asshole, I'm going to take a stand and say this service dog business is getting entirely out of hand.

Don't get me wrong.  Service dogs are necessary.  Service dogs do a specific job for their handlers and should be allowed in all places of business so that the person in need of assistance can live as normal a life as possible.  I am not against service dogs in any way shape or form. They are essential.

According to the American Disabilities Act, "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."

That bears repeating:  "Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."  Also, a service dog is not a pet.

Often I think it's more the poor dog that needs comfort or emotional support, but that's another story.

The problem is it's not always obvious if a dog is actually a service dog or just a comfort animal used for emotional support. 

At least once a week someone comes into my place of business with their dog claiming "service dog."  We are limited to two questions: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?  We are not allowed to ask about the person's disability, medical history (of course not, and that's completely fine), certification or identification for the dog, or request a demonstration of the dog's tasks.  If people answer these questions correctly they can keep the dog in the building until the dog either pees on the floor (which has happened), barks incessantly and annoyingly (which has happened), or is left somewhere in the building without it's handler. Under the law, a service dog must be under control of its handler.  Also if someone comes in with their "service dog" and then another person leaves with said dog, that is also grounds for being banned. Service dogs are not shared even though the owner tried to convince us otherwise and also threatened to sue. I had another lady come in with her Chihuahua or whatever it was, bundled in her coat. I politely told her we don't allow dogs and she said it was a service dog for her husband who broke his back. I dropped the matter at the time, but my question is, if the dog is a service dog for the husband and his broken back, why was she carrying it into the building and where was he?

That Chihuahua did not look happy being carted around in a coat either. It was shaking and staring at me with these huge eyes like it was begging someone to rescue it.

Eventually one of these dogs is going to get completely out of control and bite someone, and then it's off to the pound and euthanasia for that dog, which is incredibly sad and unnecessary (and could very well be prevented).

This seems to be happening in grocery stores, restaurants, and local shops as well, and probably doctor's offices and hospitals. I can't seem to go anywhere lately without seeing a parade of canines marching by.  And sure, people use the excuse that you never truly know if a dog is actually performing a task for a person with a disability as not all disabilities can be seen.  But a dog that's yelping and bouncing around and peeing itself out of the sheer excitement of being somewhere other than home is probably not a service dog. 

These are the dogs I have a problem with and these are the dogs I see popping up everywhere I go.

I have no problem with service dogs, but people who can't seem to leave the house without their dog, and then abuse the rather vague and convoluted law regarding service animals just so they don't have to leave precious at home, that does bother me.  Not only is the law vague and convoluted, it's also extremely easy to go online and order a little coat and certification for an animal, with no training required.  Most of the time this is detrimental to the dog.  These dogs are not well behaved or trained for the specific purpose of navigating social situations in order to benefit someone in need.  These dogs are often just being dragged all over God's green earth because their owners are so attached to them or else need emotional support for anxiety that it's making the dogs anxious.

 Let's face it, most people don't spend a lot of time training their dogs or working with their behavior issues to be able to take them out in all manner of social settings.  My dog included.  I know her limitations. If someone brings a dog into a place of business claiming service dog, and then it pees on the floor, growls at a child, and jumps up on furniture, scratching around, then it's pretty obvious that dog is not a service dog.  A service dog is trained to behave impeccably under the most stressful of situations. Sure accidents happen, but they are rare in service dogs (and also the law does allow businesses to ask even service dogs to leave the premises if they become disruptive or destructive).

My dog, for example, could never be a therapy dog or a service dog.  She might be a German shepherd, but she does not have the temperament for that kind of work.  Police work or drug sniffer would be more geared towards her talents and capabilities.  If I dragged Tess everywhere including restaurants and grocery stores claiming her as a service dog, she'd have such sensory overload from all the activity, sights, and smells, that SHE would be the one with anxiety and I'd have to get HER a comfort animal.

I have anxiety too. I can get some pretty bad panic attacks. There was one I remember quite well when I was at a writers conference in New York City. Talk about sensory overload, but I can tell you right now that Tess would have been zero help as a therapy animal and zero comfort. She would have been ten times worse, only fueling my anxiety into higher levels.

I have anxiety just taking that beast into the car with me.

The message these so-called "service dog" handlers are sending the rest of us seems to be "It's all about me, so tough." They abuse the law because only their needs, wants, and wishes are important.  It doesn't matter if their dog is causing someone problems, they want the dog with them so therefore they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. And if someone dares challenge it, they threaten to sue.

It's the American way.

Meanwhile it's extremely insulting for people who actually have real, trained service dogs. And the general population is getting hostile towards service dogs because of the abuse, and that is extremely unfair to the people with actual service dogs. And I've found those people usually have no problem presenting proof and certification for their dogs, and will hand it over voluntarily even though they don't have to.

Another interesting thing I've noticed is most of these so-called "service dog" handlers are way too chipper and happy about letting any Tom, Dick or Harriet come up, coo to, and pet their dogs.  People with actual service dogs can be quite curt about telling people to NOT touch their dogs or even pay attention to them because the animal is WORKING.  I don't bother service dogs that are out and about, doing their job.  I have, however, been accosted many times by a "service dog" as it thew itself at my leg and tried to jump up on me, licking. 

God help us, the ADA has now also revised the law to allow service miniature horses that are trained specifically to help those with disabilities.  This is great for people who actually need one, as horses are very intelligent and rather fun animals to have.  The little ones are especially fun and cute, but here in horse country it's only a matter of time before some lunatic decides they need to bring their pet miniature horse wherever they go, claiming "service horse," and flinging fake paperwork around acquired from the Internet.  Service animals must be housebroken.  A faux service horse can quite possibly leave enough droppings in a business as to bring the public health inspector down on its head.

Thank God it's only dogs and horses right now.  I doubt service crocodiles will ever be a thing, but I dread the day someone comes in claiming a service cat (I read somewhere that someone trains Savannah cats for this?) or service ferret or, God forbid, service tarantula.  And I wouldn't put it past some idiot to try and sneak in their "service mountain lion" or "service wolf." 

"What work or task has your tarantula been trained to perform?"

"Scare the shit out of anyone who comes near me and causes anxiety."

Honestly, places of business will soon just be glorified dog parks.  I feel sorry for the cat people.


These two are definitely not service animal material.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Weddings

What is it about weddings that make otherwise perfectly rational human beings (and also completely irrational human beings) lose their minds?

Slate's Dear Prudence posted a letter one week with the most God-Awful bridezilla I have heard about to date (second letter after the "Dirty Talk Husband.")

Now, granted, I've read a lot of bridezilla-type letters on Dear Prudence because I've been a Dear Prudence fan from the Emily Yoffe days, but this one especially took the cake.

I kind of hope it was a fake letter.

I kind of hope it wasn't.

I mean, do people like this actually exist?

In this particular letter, the letter writer wrote that she had been shamed, admonished, and ridiculed by a bride whose wedding she attended, accidentally wearing a dress in the same shade of blue as the wedding party.

Horror upon horrors.

It really is just the end of the world when some upstart has the nerve to wear a bride's colors when she hasn't been formally invited to join the wedding party.  It's on par with the world ending by Mordor exploding.

I honestly had no idea what "wedding colors" even were until I was sitting around with some random girls one day, discussing their wedding days and what their "colors" would be.

I asked if any of them had boyfriends yet and they all looked at me like they wanted what I was smoking and said of course not, they were discussing their FUTURE weddings.

Oh, I see.

I have never been that little girl who envisioned her wedding day from the moment she turned four and watched Cinderella walk down the aisle with Prince Charming.  My favorite Disney movie was Dumbo.  I liked his big ears, and possibly the fact that he was ostracized by his peers for something he had absolutely no control over.

Something I relate to.

I hate weddings.  Other than absolutely loving the movie 27 Dresses (which has more to do with loving Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, and the fact that I watched it with one of my dear friends and ex-coworkers who I severely miss even though I am thrilled for her and her life choices), I think weddings are stupid.  And as we move into wedding season, I'm here to tell you, I dread it with the fiery passion of a thousand Hells.

I believe the precedent of weddings (and I have zero proof to back this up) was back in the day, when everyone lived in small communities and worked their asses off just to get food produced, harvested, cooked, and on the table, there was very little time for leisure. So the villagers wanted to party whenever they got the chance. Key celebrations like weddings. Back then it was happy when two people found love and it was an excuse to party. Back then people wanted to go to the wedding because they wanted an excuse to party. The wedding was the big party of the year or the social event of the season and people were thrilled to go. The couple was also extremely grateful to everyone wanting to share in their happiness.

Nowadays we no longer need excuses to party; we party whenever we want. We don't get all excited and happy about young lovers falling in love; they will fall out of love within three to five years. Couples are no longer humble and grateful; they are entitled (it's "My Day!" or in some cases, "My Week!" or "My YEAR!").

Weddings are no longer a fun party for the entire town to celebrate, they are an obligation and a burden that infringe on other people's time, money, and goodwill.

I come from a small family so I wasn't invited to a lot of weddings (thank the Lord and Savior), but I have been to a few, and part of me feels I could have done without.  There is always drama at a wedding.  Even if the bride is not Bridezilla, there is always some asshole who is slighted by the fact that the day is about someone else and how dare they.  I've been a bridesmaid enough now that my closet is packed with dresses I will never wear again, and now that I'm gluten intolerant I can't even go to these things just for the cake.

The nicest thing anyone ever did for me was the aforementioned friend and coworker who apologetically told me that she had no room to invite me to her wedding because her groom's family took up ninety of the 100 seats available in the church.  I said I was thrilled for her and not hurt at all. She said she assumed so, but she still felt bad for leaving me out.  I threw her a bachelorette party and we moved on with our lives.

It has never occurred to me to be offended NOT to be invited to a wedding.  But there are those who are.

I missed my brother's wedding unfortunately because the wedding got moved to three weeks after I returned from a pre-planned trip to Texas and there was no way I could get more time off, because my boss at the time was a harpy.  I would have liked to have been there, but life got in the way.

When my best friend got married, I had a blast. But as in any wedding, someone had to go and make drama and it wasn't even anyone she cared for.  Her brother in law was dating a gal who was a pill at every turn, and she was seriously offended and miffed that I as the maid of honor was to walk down the aisle with her boyfriend, the best man.  She thought she should have been the maid of honor because it would be "appropriate."  My best friend privately told me that it would be a cold day in hell when she would have asked that chit to be her maid of honor, but that didn't stop the drama queen from sulking, throwing a fit, and making the reception utterly miserable for her boyfriend the whole night long.

Incidentally her brother in law is now married to someone much nicer.  Good thing his ex hadn't been allowed to mess up the pictures.

Other things that went wrong: the church my friend and her husband were married in treated them horrifically.  Among other slights, they told them they could dance for the wedding and four days before the wedding, changed their minds and said dancing was forbidden in their church, something they could have mentioned months ago so that my friend go find a new venue.

My friend sent an extremely scathing letter to the church after the honeymoon.  She is a great talent at scathing letters.

My college roommate had a lovely Catholic wedding except for her maid of honor who emailed all the wedding party weeks before, demanding fifty dollars from each of us to go in for "the gift."  I declined, preferring to bring my own gift and was still solicited for the fifty dollars because I guess I had no choice.  The maid of honor in question then made such of a pill and bitch of herself at the reception that one of the groomsmen finally turned around at the bridal table and demanded to know why she always had to be such a bitch.

That did not go over well and started a small fight.

After the wedding I got yet another email demanding the fifty dollars I owed her.  There were ten people in the wedding party and enough money had been contributed to total five hundred dollars.  I think the bridal couple only saw about two hundred.  Hmmmmmm.

Another wedding I attended was okay except that I learned after the fact that several of the brides' cousins had been mean and condescending to one of the bridesmaids and a friend of mine, had bossed my escort and boyfriend at the time around like it was his job to follow orders when he had been kind enough to fill in as usher, and had generally had such big mouths that my ex-boyfriend had dragged me slightly drunk and exhausted beyond belief from the reception to cover two hundred miles home in order to get enough distance between us and the harpies in question as possible.

My other best friend got married in Vegas.  Her sister and husband caused enough drama to last all of us a lifetime and I wonder how she managed to go through with the wedding without burying both of them in the desert somewhere instead. And as her best friend it would have been my duty to not question why, but grab a shovel and ask where I should start digging.

The weddings I've been involved in, the brides have been absolutely lovely.  Not a single issue or bitchy moment.  It seems though that in the lack of a Bridezilla there ends up being a Bridesmaidzilla, or a Guestzilla, or a Family-Memberzilla, or even a Groomzilla (in the case of my childhood friend and her first wedding - thank God she has a much nicer husband and life now). Weddings demand drama.  They yearn for it.  They thrive on it. This is why we have shows like Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress.  I don't think a wedding can happen without someone losing their marbles to the point where they need to either be slapped back into reality or committed involuntarily to the funny farm. Even my mother's wedding was drama.  She wanted her best friend as her one attendant, but my grandmother made such a fuss about everything and threw such a fit that my parents attendants were chosen for them, as well, as many other things about the wedding.  It was one day so my mom didn't care too much, but she's told me before that she'd have preferred the wedding SHE wanted because after all, she was the one getting married.

I have been invited to a wedding this summer.  Probably my last as I'm getting older and most of my friends are happily (or not so happily) settled down, at least for now.  After this one, I'm the last one, as I have never been married.

I have never wanted a wedding.  Sure, there is a part of me that wants to wear that beautiful white dress, drink champagne, dance and laugh and eat cake (ah, yes, the cake).  But let's be real.  I have a very small family and few friends left, especially close by.  No one will come to my wedding, as everyone has moved on with their lives and nobody has time, energy, or money to travel just to see me walk down the aisle with someone.  It suits me just fine really, as if life and fate have worked together to ensure that I get what I may not know I want.  Girls are trained to want a wedding, to demand it, to expect it.  I think it might be best if I run away and elope, wear that dress just because I can, and party on the beach until two in the morning with strangers.  I don't like drama, I don't like weddings, I don't like party planning, and I don't like drunken fiascos.  I do like to dance, I do like spontaneity,  I do like wine, and I do like California Guy.

That's probably all I need at my wedding.

I've decided to get married looking like a big cupcake. What do you think?

I want to fly like an eagle.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

It's the End of the World as We Know It

My body has forsaken me.

Not only do I have codependent pets, I now have some kind of weird codependent creature living in my stomach causing all kinds of problems.

I have an overgrowth Candida. I don't understand it completely, but it basically means I have an imbalance of gut flora and my internal bacteria is out of whack.

If the tummy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. I have brain fog, chronic fatigue, irritability, emotional issues, weight gain, skin issues, and God knows what else. Stuff I thought was caused by a hormone imbalance, and they were ten years ago, but my hormones have been balanced for couple of years, so this was just some new crap.

I'm not a doctor or a scientist, so all I was really interested in after I got my test results was what is the bottom line? How can I cure this and how long will it take?

My doctor, bless her heart, said as soon as she saw my test results and saw the imbalance of gut flora signalling Candida in my stomach she knew I was going to be mad at her and she was dreading our phone consultation.

Here's what that means: You know those annoying pretentious people on a special diet who refuse to touch sugar, wheat, MSG, and anything else yummy?

I am now one of those people. Not because I refuse to touch these things, but because it is recommended that I don't in order to heal the issue in my stomach.

I looked over the list of food I can eat and then the list I can't eat and had a breakdown. Overgrowth of Candida is basically like a yeast infection, which doesn't surprise me because I've had problems with overgrowth of yeast all my life (I'll spare you the dirty details). Sugar, yeast, fermented foods all feed it.

My four favorite things are chocolate, coffee, wine, and cheese.

They are all off the menu.

You know what I hate? Cauliflower. It is absolutely on the menu.

Also banned: All dairy but plain Greek yogurt, corn, rice (a gluten free person's staples – no more popcorn for me) and fruit, God help me. No pineapple, no peaches, no muskmelon (I'm growing and nurturing four muskmelon plants in my garden, Goddamnit!) and no watermelon. These are a few of my favorite things.

I can, however, have berries. And avocados.

Fuck me running. Uphill. Backwards. With a spoon.

I used to judge those people who are all, “Oh, I can't eat sugar, it's bad for me. And I don't drink, because well, alcohol is THE DEVIL.”

The other day I went shopping for my new diet. My cart was full of beets, carrots, bell peppers in all colors, avocado, celery, nuts (almonds and walnuts, cashews are off limits), and stevia.

I have never in my life wanted to even entertain the idea of using stevia. I'm a sugar girl. I'm not one of those people who is all, “Oh, I use STEVIA because sugar is sooooooo bad for you.”

People were looking at me in the grocery store like, “What the hell, girl. Eat a fucking sandwich.” Even the checkout girl plucked each piece of my fresh produce off the conveyor belt, regarded it with a rather raised eyebrow, and then pushed it down to the lady bagger, almost with a gesture of disgust, like, “This girl needs to freaking get over herself. I mean, what the hell.”

I couldn't blame her for her judging me. I was judging me.

Earlier that day I went to the health store and managed to find crackers made with stuff that is actually on my diet plan and pasta made of pea flour and buckwheat flour. At least there I didn't feel judged because the health food store is filled with other annoying pretentious people who are on a special diet, gingerly picking through the “unhealthy” food with wrinkled nose and curled lip.

People like me minus the wrinkled nose and curled lip. I'm the one drooling over the organic potato chips and chocolate bars.

This is what I've been reduced to. Leafy greens, root vegetables, no fruit, no sugar, no caffeine.

No wine.

I asked my doctor how I was supposed to get through eight weeks without chocolate. Yes, I'm such a baby, this diet lasts eight weeks and I'm whining and crying like my life is over. My doctor did tentatively suggest that I could probably get away with that 72% or 85% cacao Ghiradelli dark chocolate bars because there isn't a lot of sugar. I can also make truffles with cocoa and stevia or whatever.

Oooh, yay. Stevia truffles!

Do you know how I make truffles? With whipping cream and high quality bittersweet chocolate. Also, brandy.

Dairy and alcohol are off limits for me. The chocolate chips I use are only 60% cacao so not as good as they should be. They still have a lot of sugar. And besides, I love milk chocolate. I will eat dark chocolate if that's all there is and I have no other choice. But I LOOOOOOVE milk chocolate. Preferably Dove milk chocolate with peanut butter or caramel filling (mmmmmmm). Then there's the Frey milk chocolate from Switzerland that is better than sex fashioned into these cigar shaped sticks with a praline filling and hazelnuts.

I hate my life.

So I took all of my lovely fun groceries home intent on making a yummy dinner that would make me forget that I can't eat cheese.

Did I mention I've never purchased a beet in my life? I don't even know what to do with a beet.

I chopped the beets and yam into discs to bake and pan fried some chicken thighs in olive oil (no butter for me!) with ginger, garlic, anise stars, thyme and basil from my garden, and rock salt.

I caved and had a glass of wine with it. Hey, it's my first day on this shit and small steps, right?

The chicken turned out really good, but that's because I discovered I love the taste of anise. I also love the taste of basil and thyme.

The beets and yams? Well, they can use some work. The main problem was that I had more beet and yam discs on my baking stone than there was baking stone so they didn't bake as well as they could have.

The question is, why am I doing this to myself? Well, I'm tired of the bloating, the chronic fatigue, the depression, the complete lack of desire to exercise or really do anything. Brain fog is not a good thing to have when one catalogs books all day long (it's a very precise job), and also when one wants to write for a living. I have no energy and no drive. And that is not like me, has never been like me. When I adopted my dog I walked her three hours a day. Now the thought of walking five minutes makes me want to go take a nap. The dog wants to take a nap too, but that's because she's older and she picks up on my mood.

I've got to be the most boring human on the face of the planet and it's not even by choice. I used to go out dancing every Friday night. Now, the thought of being out of the house past ten o'clock sounds like a punishment.

All I know is that I'm going on vacation in a week to visit my parents and there is no way I will be able to stick to this ridiculously rigorous diet at their house. They have Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolate, fancy coffee, and expensive wine in abundance. I am my parents' daughter as I inherited my taste for these things in spades. At least at my house I can throw out all temptations (except the wine bottles, there is no way I'm throwing out my wine collection), but at my parents' house?

Forget it.

The diet begins the day after I return home from my parents' house.

That's also when my life ends.

I'm such a drama queen.

But hey, I have to give up sugar and wine. I feel like I have a right to be a bitch.

Guess that jackass who wrote The Gluten Lie was full of it. Sure, in his perfect little world he can eat wheat, sugar, and MSG in moderation. But when you have codependent Candida, you don't get that luxury.

That damn bacteria must have been talking to Percy. Can't eat unless I'm right there.


Sigh...good bye, wine.



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Experts and Know it Alls

I must not have enough to do because I read a lot of stupid articles on the Internet and I have come to a conclusion.

There are a lot of opinions out there. And there are a lot of opinions out there that pass for fact.

I write a lot of drivel, but I don't presume to insist that my opinion should be taken as fact because I'm some sort of expert. I'm no expert. Thirty plus years of living with cats and dogs does not make me an expert.

It makes me a lunatic.

Herein lies the problem.

I would like to be a freelance writer. I've taken courses, joined a Facebook community, signed up for blogs, and it occurs to me that the number one thing one needs to be a freelance writer is a "niche."

A niche also means one should masquerade as an authority or expert on something.

Now granted if you've worked in a particular field for many years or have done something so much that people pay you top dollar for you expertise, then yes you can call yourself an expert enough to claim a niche (like one my favorite writing blogger/experts, Jacob McMillen).

If you've just dicked around for years talking about how obnoxious your animals are and how you wish you could move to the planet Xardoc where animals have to bring you your food on a silk cushion, well, you're not an expert. You're just mentally challenged.

I have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, but not enough knowledge about anything to call myself an expert. It's kind of like that Keith Urban song, Little Bit of Everything. Except his version is so much more fun than mine.

I went off the deep end the other day, finding articles that debunk things that I practice and hold dear, for no other reason that I like to torture myself and also, if I decide to write about these things I don't want to sound like an idiot who doesn't know what she's talking about. My preferred "niche" for writing is testimonials or personal essays. I am at least an expert on me, but I also don't believe that just because something works for me that it's gospel and the world should bow to my wisdom.

For example, I'm gluten free. I like to say I'm gluten intolerant which isn't exactly true as trace amounts don't do me in, so I guess I have a sensitivity. I then decided to read The Gluten Lie so that some "expert" could tell me exactly the reasons why I was delusional and there is nothing wrong with eating wheat.

I agree. There is nothing wrong with eating wheat. If you're not me.

The book actually turned out to be pretty informational, but boy did he get lambasted in the review section of Amazon. He claims that science does not prove that America is fat because it eats too much wheat, sugar, carbs, and MSG. He also says that science does not prove the opposite, we just don't know yet, but it's grossly irresponsible to go around claiming that wheat and sugar are demon foods that kill.

What a relief. I love sugar. I'd be devastated if I had to give up my desserts.

I think the author is more an advocate of everything in moderation. Thank God, I can still drink wine as long as I don't consume the whole bottle in one sitting.

Well, where's the fun in that?

Just kidding. Two glasses I'm passed out on the couch with Megamind in the background.

Wheat is a problem for me however, and I do not have Celiac's disease. I just know that every time I eat a roll of bread I have oodles of issues the next morning in the bathroom. I also know that if I eat MSG I have more problems, and not in the morning but immediately after. As for junk food, packaged foods, processed foods, and otherwise healthy foods with shit added to it (cargeenan in whipping cream, anyone?) I just feel better when I don't eat it, and my digestive system actually behaves itself.

I refuse to give up wine, however. But I stick to high quality wine, so that should be okay, right?

But that's me. If you can drink a Coke, eat a Snickers bar, and scarf down McDonald's everyday with zero issues, more power to you, and I'm jealous. I miss the days of Snickers bars and milk for breakfast at ten AM. California Guy can go through a twelve pack of Coke and rum in two weeks and he's skinnier than a rail. He also eats fast food, processed food, and that awful grocery store baked bread that's just flour and sugar with water added.

I used to love that stuff.

What I really miss is bakery quality cake with that sugary whipped cream frosting. Now if I want cake I have to make it myself. And it's hit or miss if the cream stabilizes.

Another example: naturopath medicine. Oh, this is a big one. After reading several articles online debunking naturopath medicine as witch doctory and fantasy magic potions, I started to wonder if my bioidentical hormones are actually doing more harm than good.

That was until I noticed that all the articles and blog posts were actually written by the same person. There is one lady out there on a crusade to run naturopath medicine into the ground as pure charlatan-peddled snake oil. I'm sure others think so too, but she has the biggest mouth, the loudest opinion, and the fanciest website.

She must have had a really bad experience.

Once again, this is just me, so I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that once I started taking bioidentical hormones, started eating a healthy diet of whole and clean foods, and exercised more, my hair stopped falling out, my energy returned, and my skin stopped doing that weird thing. Science is all great and good, but the list of side effects on pharmaceuticals (the ones they are required to read off on TV commercials and it takes two minutes) scares the ever-living shit out of me.This is considered "good medicine" while my probiotics and GABA for anxiety are considered witch doctory?

Well, you don't have to live in my body. You just have to live in your own.

All these opinions and shouting from the soapbox preaching has shown me is that nobody really knows anything. And they are desperate to prove just how much they don't know because we as a species can't seem to keep the most ignorant of us off the Internet. You can go to school for twenty years and still have no clue, and humans are such unique creatures, that each person has their own distinct biochemical makeup that they have to figure out on their own.

Now obviously some things are bad for everyone: smoking, heroin, cooking meth in a mobile home in the desert for two criminal masterminds. But when it comes to health everyone is different and everyone has to figure out what makes their bodies miserable and what works. I'm gluten free, and believe me it's been no picnic (and yes, I get the eye roll and I just want to tell servers, "Hey, if I could eat that whole loaf of bread and feel fine in the morning I'd totally do it, but I don't think you want to clean my bathroom when I'm done with it after a night of gluten indulgence"). I love my naturopath practitioner, if for no other reason than she did not, like all of my mainstream medical doctors, tell me that there is nothing wrong with me, it's all in my head, and dismissed me with a prescription to something I ended up flushing down the toilet. Most of them wouldn't even listen to me. I went to five doctors, telling them that my hair was falling out in handfuls and I got the same response from all of them.  "Hair falls out. It goes in cycles." The endocrinologist even said " I don't know what you're complaining about, it's growing back."

I'm glad she spent eight years in school just to learn how to be so condescending.

I guess the way I look at it is, I feel like shit, everything I've tried hasn't worked, what's the harm in trying something different?

Some call this the placebo effect. It's harmless but you think it's helping so it helps. It's all psychological.

Maybe it is. My psychology is pretty messed up. I live with three codependent, neurotic cats.

But I'm sure someone out there thought contact lenses were a stupid idea too and rallied against them before they became mainstream.

I love my contact lenses. I also love my glasses.

I also love my eye doctor, but that's another story. He's the type of doctor who listens, enjoys his patients, and always has a big smile for everyone. I actually look forward to my yearly visit with him and if I ever move, I'm flying back here just to see him once a year.

 I love that I can go to the Urgent Care Clinic and get medication for an ear infection or strep throat if I have that. I love that I've been vaccinated for measles, mumps, and Hepatitis. I also love that I can call my naturopath practitioner and tell her my stomach issues and she has better ideas than my general practitioner who gave me a prescription to Nexium (that ended up just aggravating the situation so I stopped taking it). I wish I could eat bread with as much abandon as I did in my twenties, but maybe that's part of getting older.  You're just not in your twenties anymore, and really, you probably shouldn't eat anything with abandon.

Tequila shots with abandon also no longer work.

In the end I readily admit I don't know what I"m talking about either. I go by trial and error. This worked, this didn't, this REALLY didn't. Hey, this worked and I feel great!

Just because it worked for me, doesn't mean it'll work for someone else. I'm not allergic to peanut butter. Other people can't even touch the stuff (oh my God, the horror, I don't think I could function). Recovered alcoholics can never drink wine again if they want to stay on the wagon. I love my wine, but I also know when to stop. We are all different and we all need to find what works for our own unique bodies.

And we could use a lot less experts and know-it-alls out there telling us that their way is the only way, or that some other way is the wrong way even if it's worked for someone else.

I'm sorry, humanity, but nobody knows everything, even scientists and doctors.

I've decided to forgo freelance writing and just write fiction. I do better when I'm not pretending to be an expert on anything except the worlds and characters that I make up in my head.

This may be a cop-out, but it's one I can live with.




These desserts are completely gluten-free. They are not sugar-free, vegan, or paleo.
They are, however, delicious.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Best Good Luck Charm Yet

The other day I found this little guy wandering around on my back deck, right before another one of our springtime torrential downpours on par with hurricane weather:



I like to think I saved him from a fate worse than death by trapping him in this candle lid and bringing him into the house.

I also like to think that's a good omen for my life because this little dude is the most interesting-looking spider I've seen to date, and not squashing them is supposed to be good luck.

I asked one of my friends (who loves spiders more than I do, and he of the great bird eating spider ownership) what kind of spider this is because I'd never seen one quite like it. I thought at first it might be a bold jumper, but it didn't jump.

This was lucky since I thought it would be a good idea to bring Shelob into the house where he could easily have escaped, and then I'd be sharing my house with a monstrosity the size of a quarter.

My friend suggested at first that he was a wolf spider, but I didn't think so. Wolf spiders are ugly. And they carry their babies on their back. And they are just all around icky. And they bite. This little guy was so pretty, and had two little green dots on his face that I thought at first were eyes, but may actually have just been the mouth parts or premature fangs.

Bold jumpers do have those beautiful green or blue fangs.

I told my friend he was sporting some jewelry and my friend said maybe he's a drag queen.

The little guy also didn't seem at all aggressive, and I loved watching him move. He walked very deliberately, setting each front paw down one at a time as he scuttled forward.  I tried to video him but he kept escaping from his lid.

My friend and I deduced that he was actually a she.

My friend must have done some research because he then came back with "Jumping spider" and a picture that looked a lot like my new little friend. That's pretty much what I thought too, except she really didn't seem all that interested in jumping. And given her size she could probably jump pretty far.

Like up my nose.

Or in my hair.

Instead she just crawled gracefully around the lid, looking almost like Scooter when he scoots along the bottom of the tank.  I decided maybe Winifred was just too fat and lazy. My friend said she's just chill.

Winifred did manage to escape in the kitchen, and she started booking it across the counter in pursuit of the espresso machine.  That's where I found my last jumper, Fred, a few years ago. Just chilling next to the espresso machine.

What is it with jumpers and coffee? Did she need coffee to get the springs going in her legs?

I managed to catch her again, though it took some doing. She kept flipping over on her back because she was a bit top heavy. I'm always afraid I'll squish the jumpers when I try to trap them because they are so quick. And even though Winifred didn't jump, she scuttled pretty fast. As pretty as she was I didn't really want her in my house, mostly because she'd probably end up as someone's cat snack.

 I decided the front garden was the best place for Winifred. There is lots of shelter, lots of plants, and lots of bugs to eat. Better than sitting stranded on the back deck because once the wind and rain picked up, my deck was absolutely pummeled. Poor Winifred would have washed away in a flood.

Also, the way Tess was prancing around on the deck, I was afraid she would tromp right on top of Winifred and turn her into a puddle.

Tess did come inside before the storm, by the way.

I don't leave my pets outside to drown (though I've been tempted with Percy).

Not a moment too soon. Winifred crawled under a rock and the storm hit, spraying my deck with more water than Wyoming has seen in a year, and washing out my flowers. I had to stash the plants somewhere safe.

And if the plants couldn't handle that monsoon, there's no way Winifred could.

I realize Fred was several years ago and is probably no longer with us, but in my fantasy land Winifred meets Fred and they make a little spider life together.

I just hope female jumpers don't eat their mates.


If you look hard enough, that is spider silk coming out of her butt.


This video shows a spider pretty similar. That's how they walk! They're so cute!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Swimming with the Fishes

I have a few new pets.

No, I did not decide to adopt that bird I was on about a year or so ago. I decided against that silliness.

Birds are for the birds.

California Guy has an amazing saltwater fish tank full of all kinds of beautiful, colorful fish. He's got Nemos, a Dory, a couple of gobies that suck up sand and discard it through their gills, and several wrasses. There are also buttloads of hermit crabs (all I usually see are little legs sticking out of shells), snails, a foxface, and some others I have no idea what they're called.

I'm not a fish gal. They're kind of like plants with me. I'm lucky if I don't kill them.

Or they're lucky.

California Guy is very into his saltwater aquarium. Apparently when he decided to ditch California for Wyoming (of all things), he couldn't leave all of the ocean behind, so he brought some of it with him.

I'm supposed to be adding to the tank a clam. Did you know how many species of clams there are? And how many different colors?

And how expensive?

Yeah, neither did I.

But it makes him happy and his birthday is coming up, so he'll be bringing in his one-year-older with several bottles of wine, cupcakes, and a new clam.

A few weeks ago he decided to create me my very own twenty-gallon tank. He loves his big tank (I don't even know how many gallons it holds, I just know it's bigger than my TV and usually a lot more entertaining). He's filled his tank with all sorts of colors of the sea, but for my twenty-gallon tank, he decided to keep things simple.

I have several hermit crabs (teeny-tiny ones), a snail (he's pretty cool and he has funny lips), a pretty little wrasse, and some transparent bluish thing that seems to have trouble pooping, as he had a string of something yellow hanging off his butt the other day.

Oh, my God, it's the fish version of Percy! He totally fits right in with my brood!

Anyway, California Guy created the smaller tank specifically so I could have an emerald crab, because the one we originally put in the big tank got punked by one fish or another (we blame Dory). The only thing left of him was a claw lying pitifully in the sand.

Poor Crab Cakes.

So California Guy made up a smaller tank just for me so I could have a new Crab Cakes. Crab Cakes wasn't too interesting at first. All he did was hide out in the rocks, until one day when he molted and now he's huge and bright green, and he's always stuffing his face. He likes to hang upside down under the rocks, and shovel in the algae. Sometimes he perches on a ledge in the rocks and gawks at me with his little beady crab eyes.

California Guy also added a Scooter Blenny Fish to the aquarium who immediately became my main source of amusement this past weekend. I was riveted to the tank, taking pictures, videos, and talking to Scooter like he could actually hear me or cared that I was alive. Scooter is not codependent like the other pets. I'm more codependent on him. A day beginning with watching Scooter scoot around the sand is a day beginning well.

I could watch him all day.

I did watch him all Sunday morning.

It was the most relaxing thing I'd done all week.

That includes the massage I had Friday, where I basically got stretched,cracked, and twisted a pretzel.

Of course as soon as I got home, Percy stalked around the house yelling at me and deposited a nasty dump in the litter box; Puckett kept slipping into my spot on the couch whenever I got up to go to the bathroom or get a snack; and Willow got caught red-handed with her nose right in the leftover avocado.

Someone was feeling south of the border.

Both girls received a pat to the behind, a scolding, and a timeout.

They were not impressed. Willow went in her cage and Puckett sat on the floor by the couch, glaring at me as if she could reduce me to a puff smoke for my insolence.

Scooter and Crab Cakes are infinitely the most well-behaved of the pets. Plus they are contained in a small glass box so they can't escape.

It's a good thing we don't have an octopus. Those buggers love to get out.

It's also a good thing Scooter and Crab Cakes live at California Guy's house. If they lived at mine there would be three cats rooted in front of the aquarium, utterly transfixed.

And Willow would probably fall in trying to catch one of them.




Isn't Scooter just so cute??

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For Love of Luke

There sure are a lot of articles lately written by people bragging about how they "finally" watched all the Star Wars movies.

Like they want a medal now for having avoided this franchise for fortysome years, and now that Disney has its claws in it, they decided to go and binge-watch eight movies to the point of vomiting.

To find these articles if you are so inclined, just Google "I finally watched Star Wars" or some such nonsense.

I love Star Wars.  I love the original Star Wars.  The prequels were rubbish. The Force Awakens was a typical Disney rip-off. Disney is known for taking someone else's story and tweaking it to fit their own tired and blah formula, and now that they are running out of other people's stories (it seems J.K. Rowling has not sold them her rights yet), they have to redesign their own movies. Beauty and the Beast in live action with Emma Stone was, sadly, not worth the time or space it took to watch it, and frankly an insult to the original.

But I digress.

Rogue One was good, but only because I thought it was fun to see a.) completely different characters in the Star Wars universe, and b.) not another regurgitation of the original screenplay (I'm looking at you, The Force Awakens).

What is even more amusing besides these people begging for a pat on the back for having watched the Star Wars movies and then feeling the need to offer their opinions and comments (ranging from "They were SO AWESOME, ESPECIALLY THE NEW ONES!" to "I don't understand what all the fuss is about, this is a subpar storyline"), are the comments in the comment sections after the articles. 

People get PISSED OFF when Star Wars is criticized. 

We are talking fighting words here, and a blood bath is about to broil.

So now I'm going to post my own opinions and comments about the Star Wars movies. Let the blood bath commence. I'm ready for any and all stones to be thrown.

The thing I've found about Star Wars is that it has something for everyone, and no one is right, no one is wrong, and whatever a person gleans from the story is their own business (and enjoyment).

Sort of like God. I'm not about to hold such a high opinion of myself that I feel I can presume to judge other people's relationship with God.  I sure don't want some other doofus analyzing my relationship with God. Your relationship with God, (or chocolate, or the Force, or whatever) if you have one, is your business.  Just don't make it mine.

I didn't care for the Star Wars prequels but, hey, if someone else loved them, great.  I liked Padme's costumes and hairdos. It was fun to see Yoda act like a badass.  The movies had redeeming qualities.

Because I'm a purist, I liked the three original movies and I can live the rest of my life peacefully and happily never watching another "new" Star Wars movie again, much to the horror and chagrin of California Guy who is a die-hard Star Wars fan. I've been ripped a new one for being a purist by a friend's husband with his comment being that everything needs to be changed, modified, evolved because that's the nature of the world we now live in (or something like that, I don't know. I wasn't listening very hard).

I like old stuff, what can I say?  New does not always mean improved.  And in my opinion in the case of Star Wars, new is definitely not improved. It's just regurgitated Disney crap.

I have my reasons for loving Star Wars, and it's not the amazing universe, or the Force, or my God this is science-fiction-fantasy-space-opera AT ITS FINEST, or whatever else the reasons for liking Star Wars.  Something about special effects, and in the 70's no one had ever seen such amazingness before. Everyone has their thing.

Mine is and always will be, as with any story, the characters.  If I can't care about or love at least one character in a story I won't like the story.  This was the problem with The Force Awakens.  I couldn't care less about anyone because the movie didn't set them up in any endearing way. Even Han acted kind of cheesy.

In the original movies, my favorite characters are Luke, Yoda, and Leia, with Darth Vader, Han Solo and Chewy coming in second, and okay, there wasn't really anyone I didn't like.  Luke is my favorite.  I'm not a space opera/science fiction fan in general. I don't go out of my way to read or watch sci-fi. But Star Wars spoke to me as a child and I never even saw the movies until I was about sixteen. I saw the Ewok movie as a child and my brother had the novel adaptations, so I read those. I'd seen fragments of the movies but never all three together in order. When my brother discovered this he made me sit down at sixteen and watch all three of them all the way through with the insistence that no sister of his will go through life never having seen Star Wars.

And a love was born.

It's all because of Luke.  I have the biggest crush on him (not had, have).  I have a life-sized cardboard cutout of him in my living room. I bought it in college and it has moved four times with me. Luke was probably my first crush ever, even before Micky Dolenz, Bryan Adams, and Ray Liotta. Also, the crush is on Luke, not Mark Hamill. I don't fangirl out on Mark Hamill. It's all about Luke.

Luke has always been my favorite character, and let me tell you, I got lambasted by yet another person for having the nerve to say that Luke was my favorite character.  I was told in no uncertain terms that this was absolutely impossible, it was a travesty that I thought this, because the hero of the story is Han Solo, and everyone should love him best.

See? People get passionate about this. I mean, this guy was really mad at me.

Han's cool, but Luke did the most growing up.  We start with a whining, sniveling farm boy with patience and control issues. He screws up constantly. He gets angry and pissy. He runs off half-cocked, not listening to anyone to save the day only to ruin the day. He gets his hand chopped off. He loses his lightsaber. He nearly goes Dark Side.

By the end of the story he's learned patience, he's harnessed the Force, he saves his father from a fate worse than death, and he helps save the universe.  Good for you, Luke, you deserve a cookie.

I don't get mad at other people when they say Luke sucks. That doesn't mean I'm not passionate about Star Wars for not defending it. It just means I want Luke all to myself. The less people like Luke, the more Luke there is for me.

Luke remains frozen in time and my mind and heart as this adorable farm boy turned Jedi master/hero (now that being a hero is no longer something he craves), and I just shudder to find out what Disney has in store for him (after all, they weren't kind to Han). I have been shamed and chastised for my opinions on The Force Awakens and my reluctance to watch any of the other movies, but this should be my choice without people telling me I'm not a real Star Wars fan or that I need to let go.

Bring me another character I love as much as the originals and sure, I'll let go and happily watch the new movies. I really did get a kick out of Jyn Erso after all.

Everyone should be allowed to like or not like Star Wars for their own reasons. It's everyone's own personal choice to make. We can go ahead and write about it, but we don't have to be smug about our choices, and we definitely don't have to get all superior when talking about how our opinions are better than anyone else's.

I will continue to love Luke and believe that he lived happily ever after after Return of the Jedi (and eventually found me in the universe somewhere - screw you, Mara Jade). If this is what makes me happy about Star Wars, then so be it. If someone else likes Jar-Jar, well, I don't judge. If someone doesn't like Star Wars at all, well, that's their choice too.

And I definitely am not going to go around applauding people for posting all over the Internet that "I finally watched Star Wars because I've been so cool as to ignore it for the last forty years and now I'm an expert and here's what I think and you should believe!" 

My heart belongs to Luke. Luke belongs in Star Wars. Future films without Luke are just not worth watching for me.

I won't apologize for that.

You all do what you think is right.