Sunday, November 6, 2016

Something Fishy


Fred was a fish that we had in our aquarium that wasn't especially notable except that he was roughly ten times larger than any of our other fish. So that made him kind of cool. 

The other thing that made him interesting (in a horrifying way) was that one day, out of nowhere, Fred started swimming upside down. At first, my sister and I thought, "Hey! That's funny!" Until my dad said, "Looks like Fred's not doing so hot." Then, we knew that the worst was coming for Fred. 

We were all prepared for a quick fishy death. We'd seen it many times. Goldfish that you win at the local fair just never seemed to survive for more than a few days at our house. But Fred wasn't giving up. He swam upside down for days. Days turned into weeks. He seemed to have adjusted to this new upside down life. And then he started swimming sideways. 

At this point, we had said our goodbyes to Fred a few times already, so he was like that awkward house guest that you tell, "Hey! Just lock the door on your way out today and leave the key under the mat!" and then they are still waiting for you when you get home. Yikes. "It's okay Fred. We can see that you are increasingly distressed from not being able to swim in a normal fish way. You don't have to be brave. Just go into the light."

Eventually, Fred did go into the light. About 15 years later, when I decided to tell this story to a coworker of mine, (because I clearly have a poor understanding of social norms) she told me that you can actually adjust something in the fish's water to make them turn right side up again. Oops. Sorry, Fred. 

This is a terrible photo of our old fish tank,
but includes Brittany Beason for scale. 

Bullwinkle & Cowwinkle

For a few years I had a beautiful Betta fish named Bullwinkle. He wasn't one of our shared family pets, either. He was all mine! I changed his water, fed him, and told him stories. (Okay, you caught me. I ran out of real fish owner responsibilities to name.) He had a good fishy life. Then, one day, he died. Honestly, I was not devastated. I was a little sad for about a minute. A normal amount of sad that one should be when their Betta fish dies. But, I think my father was worried about my reacting poorly, so he immediately asked me if I would like a new Betta fish. Without really evaluating my feelings on the matter, I said yes. 

Turns out I didn't really want a new Betta fish. First of all, none of the fish at the pet store were nearly as beautiful as Bullwinkle. And none of them were nearly as lively. Bullwinkle used to swim around so quickly, and he would always go to the top of the water when I gently tapped on the side of his bowl before giving him food. However, I thought I should still pick out a fish, so I did. He was the prettiest of the fish there. I'd give him a B- in Betta attractiveness. I named him Cowwinkle. 

Cowwinkle was the most boring fish ever. The only real reason I remember him was that he was a much less exciting version of Bullwinkle. He didn't live as long, and he died in a boring way that isn't even useful to this blog. However, he has the honor of being the last fish I have owned. In his unremarkable life, he taught me that sometimes when an animal dies it doesn't need to be replaced. Or, at least, you should take your time replacing said animal with an equally awesome animal rather than just taking in whichever fish crosses your path next. 

Work Fish

I work in an office with a fish tank. The fish are pretty and people like them. Occasionally, there is fish tank drama. I strive to have as little to do with the fish as possible. 

I used to be the only person in my office on Saturdays. I worked Saturdays for a year before anyone asked me, "Hey - do you feed the fish on Saturdays?" I responded no, and my coworker was horrified. Maybe that makes me a terrible person, but in roughly 50 Saturdays it had never once crossed my mind to feed the fish. It wasn't even on my radar. However, after feeling rather ashamed of myself for neglecting this responsibility for a year, I decided to make a point of feeding the fish every weekend. 

I have had a lot of fish, but I guess I forgot (or never knew) the appropriate amount to feed a tank full of fish in a day. So instead of asking anyone for their opinion or reading the fish food, I decided that two heaping teaspoons worth of food would be enough. What I didn't realize is that you can actually overfeed fish. Luckily, the same coworker who was shocked when I didn't feed the fish for a year also mentioned a few weeks later that she only gives them half a teaspoon. When I revealed how much I had been giving them, I was officially relieved of my weekend fish-feeding duties. And I readopted my former policy of ignoring the fish. 

For example, one Saturday when I came in to the office and I was told by a child in the waiting room that there was a dead fish in the tank. And also a plastic spoon. Apparently someone had tried to get the dead fish out of the tank with the plastic spoon, but upon failing to do so had left both the spoon and the fish. I immediately decided that I could have nothing to do with this, and texted my boss to let her know the situation. I was tempted to send her a picture rather than attempting to describe the situation, but decided against it. She handled it quickly the next time she was in the office, and I was glad to have nothing to do with it. 


My youngest sister (age 10), much like me, has enjoyed having Betta fish to take care of. At one point, she and my parents were going out of town for vacation, and they asked my older sister to act as a fish-sitter for a week. My older sister happily agreed, and kept "Fishie" at her house so that she could care for it. After all, a short-term fish-sitting gig was about the easiest pet-sitting job that you could ask for in my family. 

During the week, my older sister and her husband provided enthusiastic updates about how Fishie was doing, and shared how much they were enjoying their little house guest. Meanwhile, it turned out that my younger sister was not overly attached to Fishie, but she was pleased that he had found a good home with people who clearly loved him. So she decided that rather than picking up her Betta at the end of the vacation, she would generously gift it to her oldest sister. She communicated this by letting my older sister know that she had already gotten a new Betta fish! 

Fishie was loved by my oldest sister and her husband until his final day. At one point, I even acted as fish-sitter for them when they went on vacation. But I was sure not to seem too eager in my daily updates about the Betta. I didn't want them to get the wrong idea...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Love of Animals

I love all animals. I mean, sometimes people aren't my favorite but most other animals are awesome. I don't even hate most bugs (exception: roaches). When I was little, in addition to having to deal with my love of stray animals, my dad had to keep me from playing with wolf spiders. 

But there is one big exception. One animal that I have been afraid of forever and would prefer never to have to be near. Or hear about. Or see pictures of. In fact, just writing about this animal has my heart racing anxiously. 

Ostriches. I hate them. 

Wildlife Preserve

My grandparents have always been very involved in my life. For as long as I can remember, we've spent time together almost every weekend. One weekend when I was about 12 years old, my Grama and a friend of hers drove me to a wildlife preserve. The kind where you can drive your car through a field of wild animals and watch them roam. What a cool experience! 

Upon entering the ostrich field, I immediately became uncomfortable. I didn't know why, but my heart began racing and I was certain that one of these large birds was somehow going to peck its way through the window and demolish my face. I felt trapped.

Then, the worst happened. Not knowing that I was already terrified, my grandma's friend decided it would be hilarious just to roll down my window a few inches. Not enough to actually let the flamingo tigers attack me, but just enough to make me scream bloody murder as I tried to shield my face and eyes from the large birds just outside the car window.

First Sighting

After this incident, just the word "ostrich" would send me into a panic. At one point, I confided in my dad.

Me: Dad, I'm afraid of ostriches.
Dad: Oh, I know. You've always been afraid of ostriches.
Me: What do you mean?
Dad: Well... one time when you were very little you watched me feed an ostrich a tomato that was almost as big as your head. And when you saw it swallow the tomato whole and watched it moving down the ostrich's neck you just started screaming and crying.

Now it all made sense. I had always been afraid of ostriches, and I hadn't even remembered why.

My Husband is Mean

One day I made the mistake of telling my boyfriend (now husband) that I have a fear of ostriches. He felt that he could "cure" my fear by making his computer screensaver a picture of an ostrich. He searched Google for the perfect picture, and was highly amused when this appeared:

I could not find a source for this, but if you want credit
for this monstrosity please feel free to comment on this post.
Thus, I was subjected to several months of staring at ostrich fangs. And I still married this man. 

I'm a Survivor

Now, I know you may be thinking, "How often do you really encounter ostriches?" 

You would be surprised. I work with kids. For some reason, these monsters sometimes get grouped up in puzzles and books with cool animals like zebras and peacocks. Then I have to explain what the heck those giraffe eagles are. Then, there are the random inclusions of ostriches in TV and movies. You really ought to have a trigger warning for those. I mean, I couldn't even watch season 4 of Arrested Development. This fear is clearly impacting my life. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I'm not afraid of something I would have to encounter regularly like spiders or something. But when you have Target selling Halloween costumes like the one below, you can't tell me that I'm not a brave person for continuing to leave my house despite the existence of actual dinosaur chickens on our planet. 

Toddler Girls' Ostrich Rider Costume - One Size Fits Most

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sunshine, The Possessed Cat


My Uncle Tim tells the story of Sunshine, the Possessed Cat. The first question that may come to mind is, "BUT AREN'T ALL CATS POSSESSED?" Apparently some are more possessed than others, as this story illustrates.

One more editorial note before we begin: My grandmother, who plays a major role in this story, has been known to dispute many of its pertinent facts. But in Texas the stories get better with the telling, and Uncle Tim has been telling this story since the late '80's.

Sunshine, The Possessed Cat (as told by Uncle Tim)

It was 1987 and I was attending Texas Tech University. Out of the blue, Mom called me up and asked me if I could take care of Sunshine, the big black-and-white cat that we had grown up with. Mom had recently migrated to Dallas and she and Sunshine were currently living with my Aunt Lou. After a few weeks of this arrangement, Aunt Lou announced that either Sunshine would be moving out, or both Mom and Sunshine would be moving out.

I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having a cat in my tiny apartment, but how could I say no to Mom? She quickly made the six-hour car trip to drop Sunshine off.

Shortly after Mom had departed, Sunshine began racing up and down the stretch of my long narrow apartment, over and over again. Whenever any friend would come over, Sunshine would zip between their feet, causing them to lose balance and almost crash through my glass coffee table. It wasn't long before no one would come to visit me.

After a week of this, I called Mom up and said, "What's up with Sunshine? He's not the same cuddly animal that I knew from my childhood."

There was silence on the end of the phone. Then Mom said, "There was this incident..."

My Aunt Lou was into crystals and gurus and just about anything else attached to the New Age Movement. A few weeks prior, Lou had decided to hold a seance at her house in order to contact her dead husband. Two things happened during the seance:

  1. All the lights in the house went out.
  2. The cat lost its mind.
I'm holding the other end of the phone taking all of this in. After a moment of silence, I said, "You gave me a possessed cat?"

Mom replied, "We don't actually know that it's possessed."

Shortly after this conversation, I woke up in the middle of the night. The door to my apartment was standing wide open, and the cat was gone. After spending the minimal amount of effort possible looking for the thing, I resolved myself to the fact that Sunshine was hopelessly lost. I closed the door and went back to bed, relieved to be rid of the creature. I never saw Sunshine again, but I can only assume that it joined the legions of the damned as they trek their ghoulish way across the haunted regions of the earth.

More from Tim

A big thanks to my Uncle Tim for volunteering to be my first guest author! If you'd like to read more of his work (it's all super funny and highly recommended), you can find his articles at: