Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tiger Tails

Recently I was sitting on the couch with Cha-Cha, hoping to enjoy a rainy winter day by doing little except cross-stitching and coffee drinking. Cha-Cha was spinning through Netflix on the X-Box (because I am such a good mom!), and I got all excited about a Siberian Tiger documentary he skimmed over. I jumped at the chance to watch it when he offered to turn it on. Because drinking coffee, doing needlework, and not having to watch a SpongeBob episode I’ve already seen so many times I can sing along? Priceless!

See, I have a thing for cats. Not in a crazy-neighbor-lady-with-a-suspiciously-large-number-of-them way…well, not yet at least.
There was amazing footage of the tigers in the wild, including a funny part where a young cub is retrieved from its den to be tagged while its (already tagged) mother is away. All seven pounds of that tiger cub were furious and letting the researchers know it! Which was funny in an oh-my-if-he-were-just-a-few-months-older-he’d-rip-out-all-their-throats way. Don’t worry about Momma Tiger (who had been named Olga by the researchers, and why does my mind deem that little gem worthy of memory but where I put my glasses or keys isn’t considered important enough?) – she would never know about the cross-species intrusion because the researchers had thoughtfully coated their gloves in tiger poo before doing their work. Ah, the glamour of science!

What really caught my eye was when one of the researchers had to give breathing assistance to a large male tiger that didn’t react well to the sedative. And, you might ask, how does one do such a thing for a tiger? Apparently one first holds shut the tiger’s jaw, a jaw approximately the size of the researcher’s head. Then one cups one’s hand around the tiger’s nose, gently places one’s mouth around said nose, and blows into the nostrils. One does not truly appreciate the size of a tiger’s nostrils until one sees someone perform such an act. One does not truly appreciate the dedication of scientists until one sees someone perform such an act.
They gave the tiger a little shot of reviver and scurried through the tagging process double time to ensure they finished before he woke up completely. And when the camera man gets a shot of the tiger’s tail twitching and his eye roving about while the researchers work quickly around him? That’s the moment I would have run back to the Jeep, sobbing in fear. Of course these researchers were dropped in by helicopter so it would have been a very long run. Or a very short one, this being tiger territory. I mean really, I can’t even handle a bear.

And apropos of nothing except tigers, an anecdote:
When I moved with my then-boyfriend to Phoenix in the mid 90’s, there was an animal park north of Scottsdale that was dedicated to large cats. It was a decidedly un-fancy affair, but the animals all had large spaces and the staff was obviously deeply dedicated to helping not only the cats at the park (many of whom had been abandoned, abused, or injured) but also educating the visitors about the plight of large cats worldwide. A little internet research shows that the Out of Africa Wildlife Park has since moved further north and expanded. No doubt because their original space is now populated by McMansions and upscale strip malls.

When I visited the park in their salad days, they had a show area with a shallow pool surrounded by (very tall) chain link fencing. The “show” consisted of tigers encouraged to engage in natural behaviors by park employees (there is video as well as photos of the current Tiger Splash here). The announcer stressed that the employees were not trainers, and the tigers were not trained performers, pointing out that having multiple humans in with the tigers mitigated the danger of attack by continuously distracting the tiger. In a multilevel approach to mitigating that danger, one also hopes the tigers were also well fed.
In keeping with the aesthetic and budget, the seating for the watchers of this show was a set of old, metal bleachers like I remember sitting on at baseball games in my brother’s Little League years. The awesomeness of getting to sit just a few feet from a chain-link fence separating people from tigers created one tiny problem though. Much like the annoying tabby from down the street that insists on urinating in your flower bed, tigers have a strong urge to mark their territory. This urge will be heightened by the presence of perceived interlopers, i.e. a large group of humans (or possibly tasty treats in tiger eyes) on the other side of the fence. Unlike that neighborhood tabby though, tigers – both male and female – are capable of lifting their tails and shooting a prodigious stream of urine directly behind them at alarmingly high velocity*. This created a unique job opportunity at the park.

At every show there were two people standing next to the fence on either side of the bleachers. Each carried a large, round, trashcan lid. When a tiger would saunter over and pace along the fence (deciding who to order for lunch perhaps?), one of these people would follow it just along the short arc of the bleachers. If, while the tiger was at this section of fence, he or she turned to present us with a view of the secret, under-tail, tiger parts, the trashcan lid would be strategically placed against the fence sparing us all a tiger pee soak. Everyone in the audience did the requisite, “Ew, yuck!” after the announcer explained the trashcan lid jockeys’ job. Then my boyfriend turned to me and said, “You would volunteer for that job just to get closer to the tigers, wouldn’t you?”
Yes. Yes, I would.

* I was lucky (?) enough to witness this phenomenon at Tucson’s Reid Park zoo once. A few children were standing at the plexiglass window, very excited about the tiger being so close. The children, not as knowledgable about tiger territory marking as I am, were completely unprepared for the fire hose of pee that came shooting out of tiger’s butt. I almost peed my own pants laughing while the children screamed. Does that make me a bad person?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Joining "A Year With Myself"

This is the 1st step.

Not really, of course, dramatic narrative aside. I have been on this path, or a path, for a very long time now, years of steps bringing me to this place. So it is Another Step, the Next Step, but maybe not just any step. Because this year I want to point myself toward that proverbial cliff, shut my eyes, and start running for the edge.

Just me and the sky and a wholly uncertain faith.

While my hands have been busy lately with a cross-stitch project or finger knitting or clicking away on Pinterest, my mind has been watching a vision dance about, some sort of journal or scrapbook about my journey with mental illness. Just imaging myself creatively embracing the very thing I have spent so much time and energy hiding makes my heart pound and my stomach churn. Even those words, 'mental illness' are something I instinctively want to deny.

So I'm thumbing through my piles of self-help/self-discovery books, digging through the Internet to find all the treasures floating about, and signing up to receive an email every week from
A Year With Myself. A few weeks late. Of course. It may end up being a few years with myself...

And after letting another week pass before finally reading through the Week One material, I find these questions from
Ms. Patti Digh...

"What spaces are you standing between? Now, and then? Here, and there? Whole, and broken?"

In a few weeks I will turn 40 - now, and then. Less then 6 months ago I moved from the Southwest to the Northwest - here, and there. Just over a year ago a got a new diagnosis, and with it, treatment that might finally be working - whole, and broken.

I don't think we were meant to take the assignment so literally, but I always was kiss ass.

But the
Instigators weren't done messing with me yet.
Jennifer Louden asks, "What gifts do the parts of me I don't like have to offer me? What gifts could the parts of me I'm afraid of have to offer me?"

My greatest fear is exposure. The shining of a bright and unblinking light on all the dark and musty places, the hidden spaces. Making myself available for snarky comments and petty (or not so petty) criticisms, or worse - indifference.

Because I am still broken.

And I am already whole.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No Flights Out of Yuma

I thoroughly enjoyed our holiday in Arizona. We left Portland really early and had a long lay-over in LA, so we were pretty tired when got to Yuma Christmas Eve. But my mother-in-law took the boys to church, and Monkey Man and I managed to get all our presents wrapped before falling asleep amid the ribbons.

Now for a little bragging... I scored this Johnathon Adler book, this amazing journaling book which I've barely dipped into, three (!) of these fabulous scarves, and this manicure kit which I'm hoping to try out today (because we woke up to snow, and coffee and a manicure is my idea of a perfect way to spend a snow day). I also made over a dozen of these headbands for one of my nieces, and frankly, almost an entire day spent absorbed in craft project with no interruption from children is a little slice of heaven.

Maybe all that Christmas goodness should have been a warning...

Monkey Man had intended to take the boys to the sand dunes, but my step mother-in-law got sick (and is still not well, good thoughts are greatly appreciated) so the usual New Year's trip fell through. Monkey Man is not so good with the sitting around and being lazy thing. He got bored, called the airline, and switched our tickets so we could leave a day early.

Maybe I should have told him not to break his mother's heart...

It was getting late when got to the Yuma airport that Friday night; we wouldn't land in Portland until after midnight. We hoped the boys would sleep most of the way and hoped we might actually get some sleep since Monkey Man got us upgraded to first class. But when we tried to check in, the attendant told us the flight from Yuma was delayed 1.5 hours - we probably wouldn't make our connection in LA. I laughed a little at Monkey Man. All the drama of getting ready to leave a day early was all for naught. We rescheduled back to our original plans.

Maybe I shouldn't have laughed...

It was late again Saturday night - same flight, different day. My mother-in-law had put noise makers and shiny party hats in my backpack so we could celebrate the New Year even if we were 30,000 feet in the air. Yuma, perhaps it goes without saying, is a small airport. They don't put you through security until they're almost ready to load the plane. We got through security, bought a couple of waters from the vending machine, and made faces at my mother-in-law through the glass because she was waiting until the last moment to leave. And thank goodness she did because just as the bags were being loaded into the belly of the plane, the flight was canceled.

And there were no available seats to leave Yuma until Monday.

At this point it was already feeling like a Stephen King miniseries. But it wasn't over yet.

Because when we got to the airport on Monday morning, that flight was canceled too.

And there were no more available seats to leave Yuma until... Thursday.

I know I've read too many horror novels because I couldn't help thinking, "This is how it starts."

We did manage to leave Yuma on Monday, but it required my aunt-in-law borrowing my mother-in-law's truck to take us to San Diego where we all spent the night in a hotel so we could catch an early morning flight from there, and from San Diego we flew to Denver before finally getting back to Portland.

I can't remember ever being so happy to finally be home...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A January Muddle

Ack! Once again, things are happening like crazy, and I disappear from around here. I think it's all the ADD/Scanner thing - I can't prioritize the massive amount of stuff in my head and my life. In the last 9 days, I have written drafts for 6 posts (and I mean for realz, not just in my head!). But editing and cleaning up and actually posting? Not so much. Obviously.

So...maybe a little summary will smooth things over.

1. I am considering going "public" with this blog. This fills me with anxiety because I dread being judged harshly, bullied child that I was. And also because I've said some snarky things about people I love, which means I will need to clean up and possibly delete some posts (oh, look! more to-dos requiring prioritization!).

2. I signed up to take Cathy Zielske's Big Picture Scrapbooking class, Move More Eat Well 2012. I have managed to watch the first video and read the materials. And...yeah, that's it. The process is apparently requiring much internal work that I would rather - oh, look! Pinterest!

3. Over the holidays we got stuck in Yuma. If that sounds like a Stephen King novel just begging for a miniseries, it's because it was. It's a funny story, and I'd really like to share it with you.

4. I may or may not have given up on choosing a Word of the Year. Have no clue what I'm talking about? Then you obviously don't read as many blogs as I do! Check out the concept with Susannah Conway, Ali Edwards, or Christine Kane. Just imagine me - who can't pick a topic for a blog post, picking a single word to help shape an entire year, and I think you'll understand what the problem is.

5. I'm turning back the clock to 1996 and revisiting the very first self-help book I bought, The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management, on the recommendation of my very first therapist. Oh yes, I was a Franklin Groupie - have planner, will travel (those were the days before it was FranklinCovey). Those of you familiar with this sort of thing may have been tipped off by my use of the word 'prioritize' in today's 2nd sentence.

So all of that's been burbling around in my head while also dealing with maintenance appointments, massive amounts of laundry, a sick and/or bored 4 year old, Monkey Man going off to China 4 days after we got back from our holiday in Arizona, and the pillows worth of dog hair that's piling up in every corner of the house. And let's not forget taking down the Christmas decorations, trying to finish my craft project, Pinterest, and oh-my-gods-I-totally-need-a-nap-before-I-have-a-panic-attack!

How's your January going?