Things to write while I should be studying

I was asked about the sanctuary recently.  I didn’t realize I hadn’t written about it in a while.  It’s such a part of my life that sometimes it feels like writing about breathing.

But, it’s also an intimate part of my life.  So sometimes it feels like writing about…well, other intimate parts of life.

Things have been good and weird for me out there lately.  The weird will be resolved this weekend (I think), and I will be free to talk about it then.  While I have strong evidence on which way things work out, I honestly will be happy any which way.

I spent a lot of time there over the Christmas break.  Well, there and Borders.  A local Borders sets up free gift wrapping and has charities come in and man the booth.  We are allowed to collect donations, and put out any literature we want.  Borders chose us as one of two charities, giving us the lion’s share of time.  I picked up some daytime shifts when other people were in work, got called out one afternoon when they were getting slammed, and volunteered to be there Christmas Eve morning.  As I heard from the manager’s pep talk, “Welcome to Hell!”

I have a leopard spot trimmed santa hat, so I wore that and smiled a lot and used my telephone voice.  I also wrapped a lot of books.

Christmas day, I got up bright and early, stuck overnight french toast in the oven, fed ST, then headed off to the sanctuary.  There was a very small crew of us, but we got things done quickly and I was on my way home to ST by noon.  It felt good to be part of such a great team.  Oh, I also stopped at MC’s work on the way there so she could partake of the breakfast.

On a sadder note, we’ve lost three cats this winter.  All were past their life expectancy, one by 10 years(!), but it hurts nonetheless.  I once wrote a poem for another volunteer who has a great affinity for feeding the animals.  She mentioned last weekend that every cat in that poem is now dead.

I used to be made of stronger stuff when it came to the life cycle out there.  None of our animals are young; it’s nature.  I don’t know if it was losing “my” lionness and tiger, or perhaps just time weaving into my heart a little more, but it’s been hard.

Something to talk about

Things I haven’t written about:

1) My job as a mother’s helper.  It’s been going on for over a month.  The original ad stated up to 15 hours a week, but it’s been more like 3.  It’s a nice family, a little pocket cash has been nice, but not a long-term solution to my emptying bank account.

2) My bird-watching.  I am doing a project for the class that went to Costa Rica and I became intrigued with bird-watching while there so decided to give it a try.  It’s both fun and frustrating (how aware are you of the tens of birds h-i-g-h up in the trees?  That you can never get a good gander at?).

3) My grandfather has (had?) a fractured vertebra.  Yesterday they put cement in his back.  I haven’t seen them in probably a month.  They were very adament that I not come up, despite the previous two months of weekly, “So when will we see you again?”

4) I am up for an office assistant job I really, really, really, really want.

5) The whole job situation/school scheduling/volunteer time has got my head ordering vodka tonics 24/7.  I have alternate plans/times tables if I get the job, if I don’t, if the condo sells, if it doesn’t, if we win the lotto, if my grandparents take a turn for the worse, if Jupiter’s effects on Mars become too strong….etc.  If some movement doesn’t happen in some direction soon, I will explode from uncertainty principle effects.

6) Between injury (hello, ankle-I’ve-sprained-six-times-and-now-is-just-a-facsimile-of-an-ankle), study sessions (best score on an organic chem test yet!), and condo open houses, I haven’t spent a whole Saturday at the sanctuary in a while and it’s starting to wear on me.  The whole switch-gears things in general is wearing me down.

7) I bought a steam cleaner.  I am officially 47.

Nothing like pressure from the man paying rent

I was typing an email to someone yesterday with directions to our apartment when ST leaned my way from his side of the office and said, “That’s the most typing I’ve heard you do in weeks!”

Between that and the oh-so-subtle, “You have a blog, you know,” I’ve inferred he feels I should update.

But…update on what?  I’m positive there are funny things happening every day to me.  I’m sure of it because lately I’ve been so stressed and depressed that I would not have the stamina to type if other things weren’t balancing it out.  But…they allude me when I sit down.  Especially when I sit down by myself and the weight of the condo and classes and no job settles into my head.

I was typing directions because I’m hosting dinner for the sanctuary’s interns on Thursday.  We currently have four, and they are a great bunch.  But whenever I have people over, even friends who have known me for ten+ years, I fear they will be bored.  Because, deep in my heart, I’m aware I am boring.  And I LIKE it.  I will chose a book over boozefest.  Or incorporate them like the time my sophomore year that Julianne and I got drunk and recited our favorite poetry to the rest of the dorm.

…Just giving you a moment to let that sink in.

Anyway, in a fit of organization and forward movement that is the Jessica I know (unlike the Jessica typing this right now who would like to skip class to play video games in her leopard-spotted PJs…evidently I take this going-back-to-school very seriously.  You should probably lock up the vodka and Norton’s Anthology.) I called the school health department and got an exam for my girly parts Thursday afternoon because I am out of BC-pills and lord knows ob/gyn is still the one faction of medicine that insists on poking you because handing over a pill.  (Hee.  Poke.)

So, a brief two hours before my apartment is invading by younguns looking for a good night off I will be ankle deep in stirrups and lubricating jelly.

Perhaps I should just set up the shot glasses and copies of Frost beforehand.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears – like that title hasn’t been done to death

I volunteer on Tuesdays.  I’m out the door by seven (hopefully earlier with traffic), and for roughly twelve hours I am picking up poop, giving tours, doing minimal computer work, partipating in both our enrichment and training programs, helping with special projects, and feeding.

To give an hour-to-hour assessment of what I do would be impossible.  It changes every day.  Right now, as daylight savings time is dwindling away, the afternoons get particularly dicey in terms of when things happen.  We could feed as early as five.  I didn’t start yesterday until six.

Last Tuesday, ST had off from work.  He said he’d make dinner, when I would be home?  I said between 6 and 7.

Come 6, he was wondering why he hadn’t heard from me.  I usually call as I wait on the dirt road for the gate to the sanctuary swing shut behind me.

By 6:10, he’d called.  By 6:30, he called and said he was driving over to bang on said gate to find out what had happened to me.  (These messages were on my cell phone, which I keep in the car out there.  I rarely get calls during the day, and part of feeding protocol is to turn your phone off so you can concentrate on the animals.)

I could not have told you for the life of me when I was getting home.  I purposely gave an hours leeway, and didn’t think about it for one more second.  I certainly was unaware I had just sentenced myself to a curfew.

At 7:10, while the gate shut behind me, I got his messages and started dialing his number.  Actually, before I listened to the messages, I naively just started dialing our home number thinking all was well and yes I was late, but I’d had a wonderfully exhausting day and couldn’t wait to come home and be pampered.

Um, yeah.

When I finally reached him, I was cursed and yelled at.  We hung up to finish the conversation in person.

All the way home, I was scared of how this was going to go down.  If he yelled at me, I was pretty sure I was going to yell back.  I wanted to feel in the wrong, that I owed him a phone call and his panic is a manifestation of his love for me.  But that independent little girl me still feels that when she’s demanded something, she wants to do the exact opposite.

It just also was plain weird – a first for me despite working with these big cats for over five years.  My ex-husband was also a volunteer, and we were very aware and accepting of the situation – both in terms of the time suck and the large cat aspect.

Luckily, when I got home, ST didn’t yell.  I think he hated the fact that he yelled earlier because it seemed to weaken his cause.  He’d been so worried, he vomited.  I felt horrible, but not responsible.  I just couldn’t.  I’d been volunteering again since our second date and he was well aware of how many times I’d call around the time I said I’d be home only to say I was just leaving the property.

I agreed I did owe him a phone call, and that I would slip the phone (on vibrate) into my pocket come the afternoon so that if he tried to get in touch, at least I’d know.  He also has the numbers of a few people who will always be there with me. 

Ironically, this Tuesday I was also held up.  At ten to seven, I tried to put several calls through so he’d know the deal.  No dice.  I got home to one passed-out tired man.  Who immediately thought I would be mad at him.  (I wasn’t.)

I don’t know the moral or end to this story.  I am stuck between feeling like I act single way too much and that I am grown-ass woman who can do as she pleases. 


We went away to Georgia for the weekend, to see grandparents (stopped in on mine on the way), pick some pears, and hear, “So when’s the wedding?” six thousand times.

I’ve been having bad dreams.  I can’t remember them specifically although I know Monday night’s involved protists.  Other than that, I just know I am not sleeping through the night and generally exhausted.

ST and I had what could probably be considered our first fight yesterday.  I’m not ready to go over the details because it would probably be a very nice post in itself if I could just get my brain to focus for a second.  But it started with him yelling at me on the phone.  Not because he was mad, but because he had been scared and that made him mad.  I spent the drive home wondering how I would cope with that and get us to actually talk face-to-face.  But I got home and he felt like a jerk for yelling and we resolved the issue.

The sanctuary’s biggest fund-raising event is this Friday and I feel like a third leg – not only not useful, but possibly in the way.  I’ve only worked this once before and I have no idea what to expect.  I’m also despairing over what to wear because I do not own anything animal-themed and I can’t justify buying anything new.  I’m trying to justify a trip to a stylist for an updo but I don’t know of anyone on this side of town and I’m beginning to think it’s a bad idea.

You know I am seriously stressed when I cannot get my shit together over a haircut.

Movin’ on up

Instead of a deluxe apartment, I get to sling raw meat.

Yesterday was the monthly meeting for the sanctuary.  It’s when all the volunteers get together, hear updates from the committee, meet new people, and attend training classes.

It’s also when promotions are handed out.

In June, I thought very hard about applying to be a ML (mid-level) volunteer.  I was high from the freedom of my schedule and enjoying myself immensely out there.  I had been told by GM that the promotion was mine to have whenever I wanted.

I was already doing much ML work – conducting tours, helping guests, training new volunteers and interns, and taking more and more of a leadership role with the enrichment program.  The two biggest things an actual promotion required were 1) cleaning cougars and 2) feeding.

GM and I had talked about this before.  Feeding occurs at dusk, an active time for most animals.  During the summer, this is often the coolest part of the day – an important factor when you’re leaving pounds of meat on a concrete slab.  The animals have the solitude of the night to eat their meal, then cleaning starts around 8am.

During the winter, feeders become scarce because of the short days.  By the time many 9-to-5ers are off work, it’s dark.  He and I had thrown around the idea when I first came back that promoting me and adding me to the feeding rotation would be helpful and also a way for me to keep up hours with the inevitable wacky schedule of classes.

But in June, I took a hard look at my travel schedule and decided not to apply.  It would look shitty to become a ML volunteer and then skip town for weeks.  I was happy where I was.  It still sort of astounds me how the prestige of promotion doesn’t interest me.  It’s a bug that bites almost every volunteer who sticks around.  I guess because I’ve been there, done that it doesn’t appeal.  I think I’ve gained from this by being able to just enjoy my time out there for what it is, not always thinking about the next step.

Skip to Saturday.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me – the car wreck, the school situation, the job front.  I hadn’t been out since the Saturday before and then it was with a sprained ankle so I just limped through a tour, did some computer work, and left before lunch.

Before I even got out of the car, I asked GM for my favorite cleaning assignment.  I wanted to get the most out of the day.  He agreed readily.

I ended up having an intern interviewee shadow me.  It’s been raining every day here, and that plus how much concrete jungle has been built around the sanctuary means that the paths are soggy and even underwater.  (The enclosures have land built up during construction.  I’m not saying they’re bone-dry, but for the most part the standing water runs to the paths between the enclosures.)

Basically, this is one of the worst times of the year to volunteer.  Hot, mosquito-ey, and wet.  But I was loving it.

I got called off one cage short of finishing to conduct a tour.  We have a program where people can come and spend the day getting a bit more of a private experience – a general tour, then some time with various guides doing enrichment and operanant conditioning.  They end with getting to watch some of the feeding take place.  I had a group of seven to do their general tour.

When I got done, I met GM in the parking lot, pondering his volunteer schedule for the next few months.  He asked if I had applied for ML.  And when I said no, he asked if I could go write a letter right then.

This is quite possibly the greatest way to get a promotion – have someone ask you to do it.  I hadn’t even been thinking about it.  But I know that I can help more as an ML.  GM really wants me back in the feeding rotation – something that while more responsibility is also somewhat of a treat.

I grabbed a sheet of printer paper, scribbled a note, and voila.  Yesterday I was promoted.

The actual promotion means little to me, except that it will be nice to walk around with the word “Keeper” on my back rather than “Trainee”.  It always felt a tad ridiculous.  But I am extremely happy to know that I’ve managed to return to the sanctuary in a positive way, earn my dues, and be regarded as an asset and a help.  My goal for volunteering is to make a good life for our animals and teach others about them.  I feel like I’m succeeding at that.

A Grunt and Loving It

I’m at the sanctuary 2-3 times a week these days and having an awesome time.  About a month ago or so I was seriously considering moving up in the ranks.  It just felt so natural.

Then we decided to go to Georgia for a weekend.  And to Chicago/Eagle River for a week.  In between, I will be in Costa Rica.

Whether the feeling would be valid of self-inflicted, I would worry about how it would look to accept the priviledges of a higher volunteer level and then skip town.  After wrestling with the idea for a week or so, I decided I am very happy just being grunt.  I’ll do what I’m told and leave when I’m done.

Perhaps I would feel different if I weren’t allowed to conduct tours.  I’ve done 2 adult tours, 3 children’s tours, and 1 tour for emotional disturbed teenagers in the past week.  I don’t think I’d ever want to be a full-fledged teacher, but the tours are educational and it is both fun and amazing to help people learn about these animals.

Another thing is that I have worked back up to doing enrichment.  I was granted time yesterday and walked around with an intern handing out spice bags and liver-cicles.  (Scent is important to cats in the wild so spices interest them.  And a liver-cicle is, well, pureed liver frozen in a cup.  Yum.)  It reminded me so much of why I do this.  These animals rely on humans for everything.  They are reminded of this when they eat, when they shit, and when they hurt.  Enrichment is a time for the animal to just be an animal.

These pictures are not from that, but from an early morning while I was waiting for a tour to come.  It’s hard to get pictures because there is little time for anyone to just wander; we’re always working and the work is never done.  But I snuck to my car when I saw these photo opportunities.



Leopard, mid-yawn.  He came to us after his owner, a small road-side zoo operator, died.

Roly Poly

Tiger.  She was a rescue from the exotic animal market, a pet.  I believe she was almost 3 months when the owners realized she was too big and dangerous.  She’ll live to be around 20.


Not wild animals, but too cute to not share.

Lay me Down

Yesterday was hard.  It started.  The wet summer time where I will bring socks home from the sanctuary that smell like swamp-ass.  If I were you, I would not venture into my closet with the laundry pile right now.

I need to invest in some waterproof boots, a neccessity for the Costa Rica trip but perhaps more for my sanity and feet skin right now.  Sports Authority had an entire wall of men’s hiking boots.  For women, they had three pairs.  Two waterproof high tops I can’t wear because of my ankles (only one had my size left anyway) and one pair of low top non-waterproof boots and what’s the good in that?

I haven’t been exercising lately.  Too busy.  Too sunburned.  Being back at the sanctuary means I get a good workout three times a week.  Unfortunately, being back at the sanctuary means I need to get more good workouts into my schedule so my body is strong enough to withstand those workouts.  I didn’t even do that much yesterday, but a lot of standing and walking.  My hamstrings are so sore that I couldn’t sleep last night.

ST and I will look at an apartment today.  I want to like it a lot because I love my condo and I don’t want to be sad letting it go.  Moving means being with ST and that should be a happy thing.  I think it will be hard to like an apartment after living here, in the first place I’ve called home.  We really wanted a house, with a yard.  (Have you counted the animals?)  But the rental market is horrible in Florida right now.  Everything is going condo, putting rentals at a premium.

Us living apart though is awful.  And yes, I mean that in a romantic I-want-to-be-with-him way.  But pragmatically, it is awful in what it does to my schedule, my gas allowance, my eating habits, simply my time management.  I don’t mean to complain, and he’s worth it as I stated previously since he recharges me.  I’d be a hell of a lot snippier if I was doing all of this just to feel drained in the evening.

We’re trying to piece together some trips, and I really need some confirmation and planning.  I hate that I’m nagging him every day about what his boss said, but everything is so hectic for me right now.  We’re supposed to try and get away Sunday-Monday in a week.  I will have a lab report due that Wednesday, take the lab final Thursday, the final exam Friday, leave for Costa Rica the Monday after.  A girl needs to know what’s up with weeks like that.

The other trip would be to see my family.  That I need to know for entirely different reasons.  I need to know we’ll get a real vacation together – where all this real life stuff can be ignored.  I need to have airline confirmations to look at and sigh when I get scared about my mom.

All of this talk of busy, I’d better go do something other than stare at a computer screen. 

And the days go by…

I’ve had a few topics brewing, but this week has been full of sun poisoning, migraines, and paper research.

I felt so bad that I didn’t make it to the sanctuary Wednesday.  My left ankle was swollen an inch thicker than the right one and it felt just like a sprain, all stiff and painful to move.  I now have a pretty bad-ass red blotch all over my leg that will shut anyone up if they say I was a sissy about it.  Although I have received many jokes about tips for living in Florida.  The worst is that when we decided to go wading, ST turned to me and asked, “You know how to walk in water right?” And I might have replied snottily, “Yes.  God!  I’ve lived in Florida for thirteen years!”…Yeah.  Not the smartest retort for someone who can’t seem to grasp the concept of sunscreen.

(He was referring to the “stingray shuffle” in case you wondered.)

Just as well I stayed home, Veronica was done and ready for me mid-morning.  I realized driving her home that given her mileage (142,000), I’m looking at driving her for another three years or so unless anything really horrible happens.  I love her and all, but it’s kind of depressing to think about driving such an old car for so long.  Then I perked up because ST’s truck has over 200,000 on it so I can relish a trade-in soon for something made in the twenty-first century with real padding left in the seat cushions.

Thursday I went to class.  I researched/wrote my paper.  I might have eaten a Yoplait Whips! Chocolate Mousse Style yogurt or six.  And no, I don’t really believe it’s finally a guilt-free way to enjoy chocolate.  But somehow that didn’t stop me.

Today I went out to the sanctuary, complete with really dorky hiking socks covering the worst of my wounds. That didn’t bother me in the slightest anyway as I was suffering from a migraine pretty bad.  I did back-to-back adult/children tours and thought I would puke beforehand.  But once I got going I loved seeing the animals so much it made me feel a lot better.  I also made some progress with a serval I’m training – she was much calmer with my moving around (standing/kneeling) during our session.  An important thing to learn as vets can rarely care for animals sans movement.

The paper…blech.  Writing a paper for an on-line course where there’s been no interaction/class discussion is painful.  I’m humbled by the contributions already posted.  I’ve had a hard time digging up real numbers research for the topic I’ve chosen (Human-Animal Interaction as a Conservation Issue in Neotropical Costa Rica).  Also…my writing style?  Not so good for a scientific paper.  The one good thing coming out of this is it has forced me to realize if I take a writing course in the near future, it needs to be on scientific/research writing.

Oh, I got a 94 on my test.  And I’ve been accepted as a full-time student at USF.  I had my last measles shot Thursday and I’m waiting for my new registration appointment, hopefully a lot earlier than my old one.  There is space in the bio II class but not the lab, so I’m going to have to sit on the site waiting for one to come open.  Luckily, a TA for the bio II lab is a volunteer at the sanctuary.  She’ll help me get in if she can.

That’s about the round up here.  ST tried to surprise me with catching an earlier flight today but it was full – evidently many people wish to leave Alabama.  I read his comment to my last post this morning and nearly died.  I don’t know how I got so lucky as to find him.


I was accused of writing cutesy posts lately. I didn’t really agree with the statement, but then again I barely think about my posts these days.

I suppose glossing over my schedule and responsibilities in a whir of to-do lists doesn’t quite strike the chord of scared, exhausted determination I feel 24-hours a day to be the best.

I gave up a very well-paying career, and certain government clearances that assured almost always a higher-paying career. I grew up rather poor and I made many decisions in life – such as the degree in physics with only a minor in creative writing – based on the fact that I never wanted to be poor again. I’m following my heart big-time right now and it feels right. But the mortgage payments still are due. The AC still needs to be run. I still need to eat. I’m making sacrifices and depleting a little nest egg and I’m mostly OK with that. I think as long as I don’t relax too much, as long as I don’t feel like I gave up my job in order to sit around the house and watch UPN, I’m more OK with that.

(I’m aware this is a theme done to death here and one of the reasons I’ve been quiet about it. But almost every day I’m required to do something on this front – particularly the difficulties I had getting into classes and scheduling are already true for the fall as well and I’m doing my best to be proactive and persistent. So it’s on my mind almost constantly.)

ST and I are going to the panhandle this weekend to stay at his grandparents’ cabin where I will meet his parents. After the initial nerves wore off, I am really looking forward to this. While I usually am pretty confident parents like me, this time I’m not sure and I’m OK with that. This isn’t showtime. This is real life. I’d rather just be myself, treat ST well, and let judgement come as it may.

But my point was, originally I had planned to be at the sanctuary Saturday morning. Then I would drive an hour to his place, shower, drive six hours to the cabin, and show up in time for dinner. We’d then have a good twelve hours before repeating the process. And I thought this would work. I thought it would be fine. Just like all the other times I’ve tried to cram family events into weekends when I was also volunteering.

ST, in his wisedom and love, was fine with this arrangement. I let it mull over in my head for a day or so, already stressed about timing and traffic and could I get anything accomplished in a few hours out there and feel good about leaving. Then I decided I am too fucking old to be a martyr again and we are now leaving for the cabin Friday night. The sanctuary will survive without me, probably even run smoother without someone frantic to leave so early in the day. This is probably a no-brainer to most people out there, but it was hard for me and part of my learning process. I made him a promise. I haven’t always been great at keeping these kinds of promises.

I suppose it could come across cutesy as I try to gloss over the fact that I’ve met someone whom feels about me as I feel about him and that feeling is something I pretty much decided I didn’t believe in. Especially when this means I have to contemplate things I thought were long dead options in my life.

I have no problem considering myself a wife in private. Or his property for that matter, as I am confident I can consider him mine. But once we step out into society, I’m less certain. I always assumed I’d take a man’s name again, but I’m having such a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that I must give my family and heritage. (I’m reading this book to try and get some perspective. Any other reccommendations would be appreciated.)

There are also children to consider, which is something for a very long time I was adament against. And it’s one thing to contemplate babies when you have a stable career, and little extra perks like health insurance. But I am on a pretty tight schedule to get a new degree and establish myself in a field that frankly is a lot more fluid than my last. I was looking forward to field work and full passports and cross-country drives to the next national park. Which is not to say I couldn’t look forward to babies. I just am not quite sure how. I had to paint this picture in quite a bit of detail and stare at it for a long time in order to get the courage to leap. There’s no room left on the canvas. I have to start again from scratch.

(I won’t bore with you with the details of IF we do decide on kids, how exactly shall we procure them. I admit, the old-fashioned way as some appeal. But I also was always very interested in adoption, especially cross-cultural despite seeing the difficulties through various friends.)

If I have a moment tomorrow, I shall be back to cutesy posts with a story of how yankee women are not allowed to say “fixin'”. Otherwise, have a great weekend and relish the million possible train wrecks I shall share after our trip.