Sunday, September 18, 2011


I've heard that the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. That learning helps you fight fear because it takes away the mystery, it helps you prepare yourself and approach things you would reflexively retreat from.

We have a lot of spiders here. A lot of them. Spiders don't generally freak me out. I catch them and put them outside and don't panic when I see one nearby. Then, two years ago during my internship at NW Trek there were a lot of spiders in the intern house and there was a sign on the door detailing the venomous spiders of North America. I figured the sign was on the door because I needed to be on the lookout for venomous spiders everywhere I went. I was later reassured that this wasn't true, because Washington state doesn't really have venomous spiders and the ones we do have live in eastern Washington and only show up as hitchhikers. Even so, I started trying to identify the spiders I saw most often and learning about them. I didn't encounter a single venomous spider, mostly a lot of orb weavers and I was confident I'd overcome the fear of spiders I had left.

Until I came down here. In the South, everything can kill you. Everything is venomous. I was pretty secure about my spider thing until someone found a black widow in her web on a bicycle. I'd never seen one before and they're the most famous venomous spider. It put me on my guard. Then I started seeing huntsmen spiders. Female huntsmen can be huge. Absolutely huge. I've done okay around the 1-2 inchers but the other day there was one that was at least 3 inches across, possibly larger. She was huge. And skittering around in the folds of some clear plastic very quickly, and guarding an enormous egg sac. Awful, awful, awful. I tried to be brave and go back to what I was doing but she ran again and I couldn't do it and even felt a little queasy. Too much of a spider in a place where all the spiders are dangerous.

I hate being scared. I hate it so much. It's unnecessary and a waste of energy.

So I came home and started up my spider research again. Huntsmen are generally not dangerous. They are non-aggressive and the bite may hurt but won't kill you or cause tissue necrosis. The time to watch out for them is when they are guarding eggs, in the late summer, because they get more aggressive, but their instinct is to run and hide.

I looked up some other spiders, too, the ones I do have to watch out for. Like widows. Widows have weird webs and a lot of distinctive markings, which helps. But they are also pretty non-aggressive. We have black widows and brown widows, and I've now seen both. I saw a strange looking web today in a spider where we frequently put our hands so I got a stick to see what spider was living in it and uncovered a little brown widows. Which I correctly identified because of my spider research. Instead of panicking and killing it, I showed it to everyone and then let it be.

The big huntsmen might take me awhile to get used to, but I'm another step close to getting over a fear I don't need. I need to know about spiders, where they might be, what to look for, and what to do if someone gets bitten, but a fear response is unnecessary. And would likely be counterproductive. And the bigger huntsmen eat cockroaches so I want them around.

Other than this lesson in fear conquering, not much has been going on. I have some pictures but most of them are behind the scenes so I can't post them.

I did get a pretty good picture of the tiger boys, Bhoja and Adee, that I can post, though.

Aren't they awesome?

This post got me looking up quotes on fear and sometimes looking up quotes is pretty inspirational. I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beautiful Life

Today was one of those days that reminds you how beautiful life is.

Today my cousins Josh and Joy had a beautiful little baby girl. I think a new little life is a wonderful reminder of how amazing life is, how special and incredible.

But it's not just this sweet little girl that did it. It's their sweet parents, too.

They named their little baby Alyssa Jacqueline, for my mom.

I've been crying happy tears most of the day.

Life and love do not end. They continue on forever, in some form. Just a week ago I was writing about  how much I missed her and loved her and now today there is a little girl in the world with her name. I think it's amazing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Comes With The Job

I know I need to put hydrogen peroxide on my hand, but I also know it's going to hurt really bad. It's this tiny little cut, but it's in just the wrong spot on my hand so that every time I grab something or push on something--all the time at work--it splits open again. And work is a really dirty, gross place for a wound that won't stay shut. I'll do it after this post.

Which should be short, because it's just a story. Not even a story, really, just some words.

This morning at the zoo, one of the keepers was in the porcupine exhibit filling in the hole. Porcupines burrow so these guys dig and dig and dig all day long to keep themselves happy. Which is great. Except that it makes the ground unstable because we've no idea where there network of tunnels goes and where to avoid weak spots. And when it's muddy you have to be really careful not to slip into the big hole and into a tunnel. You'd probably never make it out. It's a fear of mine.

Anyway, she was in there trying to fill some of the hole up while the dirt was loose. Some zoo guest on the other side of the exhibit says to her "Went to college just to fill holes?"

People think they're so cute.

We started talking about other stories like this. For some reason, people like to heckle keepers when they're working in exhibits. One of the keepers told a story about when he was cleaning out a moat in an exhibit and a parent said to her child "See, that's what happens when you don't finish school." This keeper spoke up, though, and mentioned he had a degree and the mother hurried away without making a response.

We cleaned out a moat yesterday and people stop to watch. There's a pretty steep incline into the moat and I was climbing up and down with trash bags and  a pair of people stopped to watch and congratulated me on not falling. Which is great, because it means they were probably watching hoping that I would fall. But while we were cleaning, I was thinking about things like those stories. Because I know a lot of people watching you clean a moat--which is super gross--are thinking "What an awful job." "Too bad she couldn't get a real job." Or, if they know about keepers a little bit, "What a waste of a degree."

I want to say a lot of things about these people, and other people who visit zoos, but I won't.

I will say, though, how frustrating it is to hear people talk like this about something I love to do. I wish more people understood what goes into zoo keeping. It's not a backup plan. It's something you work for. It's something you have to love doing. And keepers do; they love it. One today said his internal response to a heckler was "I'd rather do my job than yours any day, and I don't even know what you do."


Today we also talked about the visitors who do really stupid, really obnoxious things at zoos. I won't so much about that either, because it gets pretty mean. I will ask you not to be one of those really obnoxious people at zoos. Don't yell, tap on the glass, bang on the glass, throw things into exhibits or at the animals, really try not to drop things into exhibits, and don't mock the animals. Mostly it just makes you look like a fool.

In other news, all of Magnolia's peripheral lymph nodes are swollen. She probably has some kind of infection. I'm taking her to the vet Monday so I'll ask about it then. Awesome.

In other other news, we moved a box at work today. It looked like a coffin, first of all. It was covered in fire ants and termites and had two large cockroaches and one very large spider protecting its egg sac. I think it was a wolf spider, but spiders are really hard to identify online. It was a pretty horrifying thing to have to move. Related, today I had to check bait boxes--for rats--which is usually not a big deal because the rats do not die nearby. But there was one bait box that had had a nest of roaches underneath it last time. So this time I came armed with roach killer spray. I moved the box and there they were and I sprayed and sprayed. And then they kept coming out of the box. Which I had to pick up and carry back to where we were. It was awful. And there were visitors all over and I was trying to be subtle because I have a bait box for rats filled with roaches, which is just a gross thing to show visitors. But I kept kicking the box to get the roaches to leave. Then I ran with it to get it away from me as soon as possible. Then I had to go back for a second box because it was broken and wouldn't hold bait anymore, but some roaches had also taken up residence in that one. It's so gross. They swarm and they scurry and they're awful.

See, I do things like that just so I can get a good recommendation and someday be a keeper. And it's worth it.

(Most of the time.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Memory

Nine years ago, this was my last day with you. I didn't know it; had no way of knowing. Part of me wishes I had known, because I had so many things I would have said. Part of me thinks knowing would have been no more bearable. Because as the hours, the minutes, the seconds ticked away on my last moments with you I would have been wishing for more, wishing for them to last and last, just a few seconds more.

I miss you. I miss you every single day without fail.

It's so strange to live with this huge part of me and my life missing. Some days it seems like a vast emptiness next to me. Because all I want is one more hug, one more word, one more anything to get me through. When I'm sad or upset or scared or confused, I wonder what you would say to me. When I'm happy or excited, I just wish I could hear you say you're proud of me, or you're happy for me.

Some days it feels like I would give anything, absolutely anything, just to have time with you again. But then I think I would give anything for a day. Then anything for a couple hours, or an hour, for ten minutes. I would give everything for any amount of time with you again, but no amount of time would be enough if I knew it had to end.

I love you. I loved you then, I love you still, I love you always. But now I realize, more than ever, how much you loved me. I realize how much that means and how much that shaped me. Growing up, I was lucky enough to experience unconditional, sacrificial love. Not only to experience it, but to know it. To know it in my deep happiness. Because even when everything was scary and going wrong, and there were certainly those moments, I felt safe. I didn't want anything else. I didn't want to leave home. I see it so much clearer now. When I see other people, other parents, other children. Above all else, I had love.

I miss you. I wish I could tell you all the things I need to tell you. But I have to believe that you know them.

I learned something in one of my classes last year. Something that astonishes me.

The brain chemistry for grief and withdrawal is extremely similar. Physical responses are similar, emotions are similar, it's all similar.

I love you.

Did you know that I still wear the ring you gave me? Valentine's Day of first grade. I took it off once, to get it re-sized. It's now on my left hand, on my ring finger. Sometimes I think about would I would do if I were to get married. Where would I wear it? I don't think about it that much, but now I look at it and think about the kind of love that would convince me to move that ring. It's like a reminder of the kind of love I should wait for to let into my life.

I'm so lucky to have had you in my life; I'm so lucky to have your memory with me for the rest of it. I will always know I am loved, because no matter where you are now, I know you love me. If I ever have children, they're going to know love that is a by-product of the love you had for me.

Tomorrow is going to be a rough day. Because not only will I miss you, but I'll miss you more, and the memory of that day and the days that follow, they are so vivid and still so heartbreaking.

I miss you. I'll always miss you. But I love you, and I am so thankful for that love.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Tropical storm Lee has put New Orleans--I think the whole state, actually--into a state of emergency because of the expected flooding.

I've got my car parked on the sidewalk, which is about the highest I can get my car, so hopefully it will make it through without being flooded. My house is elevated so we should be fine there, too. We're expected to get 15-20 inches in the next two days.

So far, so good. We still have power, which isn't true everywhere. I'm not going to work today because even if I could probably get there, once the flooding starts in earnest it'll be quick and I may not be able to get back. I also just hate driving in severe weather and would rather not take the risk. So today I will read, knit, and hang out with my kittens. Tomorrow might be the same. We'll see what Lee does today.

In other news, I think Magnolia is sick. Her little kitten lymph nodes appear to be swollen. They need to be taken to the vet in less than two weeks, though, so unless she gets really obviously worse I'll just wait until then.

In other, other news, I really need rubber boots. I needed them last summer and didn't get them because I thought they occasions where I would need them would be rare. But the zoo seems to demand a lot work in high waters. Even my water-resistant shoes get soaked by lunch. And right now, in the flooding, I don't have shoes/boots to go into the street with. I feel like the list of things I need keeps getting longer but they aren't in my budget. I also am looking into a printer/scanner so I can start printing out resumes and applications and applying for jobs again. Printer, boots, and a belt. I think those are my next priorities.

Having a day off is weird. It's just after 8:30 and I feel like I should be doing something.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I've got that deep down panic rising up again.

There's another intern at the zoo in my section who is applying for paying zoo jobs right now. She has more experience than me and is having a hard time finding a job.

She has more experience than me and is having a hard time finding a job.

I feel like that's important to repeat because of what it means for me.

I'll keep hoping for a job, a paying job, in my field. But my ability to do unpaid internships will run out pretty fast. Probably as soon as my student loans are due. And my car insurance needs renewed. And when my rent has to be paid. The perfect storm that will be December 1, 2011. What a great birthday present.

It's a couple months away, but it's really not that far off. It's going to go by really fast.

I have no idea what I'm doing to do in November when I have to figure out my next step.

It makes me sort of sick to think about, actually.