Monday, April 25, 2011

Bret Michaels for President?

No, he's not running for office next year, not as far as I've heard anyway, but this man is my own, personal American hero.

Of course, he and his band, Poison, crooning Every Rose Has Its Thorn to the 16 year-old girl that I was when they first came on the scene, drew my attention...and held it for a bit...but Poison was never my favorite band.  Def Leppard and Depeche Mode have remained my two favorites after all of these years.  Fast forward past the whole Rock of Love thing, that frankly never impressed me beyond the fact Bret's eyes were still as blue, to about 20 years later and my first (yes, for one reason or another I had to wait that long) Def Leppard concert.  Poison and Cheap Trick opened for them that hot, August night in Atlanta and I was 16 again for a few hours.
I was very happy to see Cheap Trick and Poison, so many of their songs were my favorites at the time that they were released, but really, I was about to lose my mind thinking I had to make it through two opening acts before I could finally lay my eyes on Joe Elliot and his band mates for the first time.  I was antsy, antsy, antsy for the months that I had the tickets, quivering like a 60's Beetles fan entering the arena.  It was a BIG day for this silly, old-fart of a wife and homeschool mom.  Boy was I surprised that, though the Def Leppard concert was one of the greatest experiences of my life, it was Bret who made one of the biggest impacts on my life.

It was fun! He was energetic and vivacious, a born entertainer yet so obviously a down-to-earth guy even after years of celebrity.  It was when he got to the song Something To Believe In, however, that his true self became apparent.  He dedicated the song to our military men and women overseas and said that every time he performs it, it's recorded and sent to them.  He then pointed out an entire section of audience that was seated near my husband and me whom we hadn't even noticed, that was made up of soldiers who had just returned home.  Some were missing arms, others were on crutches, some in civilian clothes, others in BDUs.  I have never been so moved.

It's shameful to admit, just horrible, but I lost my sense of patriotism not long after marrying a US Navy man.  It was the way he was treated by the newly appointed administration and the hierarchy that exists within companies that did it.  He was treated as an object, humiliated, used, and basically run into the ground during the years that he was a submariner.  Submarine life is hard, especially on a small sub that runs special ops.  I could understand that.  What I couldn't handle was my husband coming home after weeks of being out and learning that he hadn't slept in three days.  I hated that he was expected to die for his country, but his country couldn't pay him enough to live on.  I hated that I was one of a half dozen spouses who ever stood dockside to meet my husband when the boat would pull in, but was told by the leader of the boat's wives' group that it was my responsibility as a wife to support my husband by attending all of the wives' meetings and functions.  After growing up in a private school and hating every minute of that form of institutionalism, I was just rebellious enough to make sure I made it through the six years of my husband's sea duty having never attended a single wives' meeting.

By the time his second enlistment ended, I was done with it all.  I loved my country, but I was done serving it as a military wife.  The week he was to be released, the World Trade Center towers came down.  My patriotism was screaming through my veins. For half a day, we didn't know if he was still free to go or if he would be required to extend his enlistment.  We were ready either way, to stay and serve or to be released and find a way to serve this country.  When we found out he was able to go, since he had already been processed out, we packed up our van, the two children I had given birth to in a Navy hospital, painted flags and "U.S.A." all over the windows of our van like college football fans, and started a month-long, cross-country road trip from the Pacific Northwest to Montana and Deadwood, SD, through the fields of the Midwest and finally on to the South.  It was liberating and healing, like we were reclaiming every inch of our country from the pieces of crap who were trying to destroy it and gaining back some of the faith we had lost after years of service.

It wasn't until Bret Micheals' open support for our service people did my sense of patriotism come slamming back home.  He had me vibrating with feelings of gratitude for those people and for my country that is still so great.  We left the concert loving that man and his kind spirit, his all-American honesty, and we agreed that he was the best part of the evening.

We watched Celebrity Apprentice the season he was on and his honest nature was emphasized during those weeks.  It was shocking and difficult to watch his close call with death.  We rooted for him, hoping he would pull through.  When he did, we shared a sense of relief with the rest of his fans.

When it was announced a few weeks ago, that he was coming to a local venue on his solo tour, my husband and I toyed with the idea of going.  Life got busy and we didn't think about it much.  Friday night, the night of the concert, we thought that we had a date night planned when my sons had a party to go to.  We were going to go have dinner in town, then pick the boys up afterward.  Well, as it turned out, they had the date wrong and the party was scheduled for another night.  We decided to go to the movies as a family.  While I was getting ready, I remembered that the concert was that night.  My family encouraged me to go, saying they could drop me off at the concert, go see the same movie, but in the town in which the concert was to be held, and pick me up afterward.  Tickemaster was no longer selling tickets and when I called the venue, they said their system was down and they had no idea if they even had any tickets left.  We decided to drive there, since it is only about 45 minutes from our house and see if there were any tickets.
Two hours later, while my husband and children enjoyed a movie nearby, I was sitting, biting my tongue to keep my eyes dry, while Bret Michaels made a video of us, the audience, while singing Something To Believe In, to send to the troops overseas.  As it turns out, that night was the one year anniversary of his brain hemorrhage and he was there to celebrate his life.  I am so grateful for such a man and the renewed love for country he inspires.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Taming the Wild Rose

When we first moved to our little farm, the front yard was nothing but weedy, dry grass and cement sidewalks. There was so much work to do on the house itself that we couldn't afford to spend money on landscaping.  I did all I could do to spruce up the yard...I tromped into the woods and pulled out four wild rose bushes and planted them in a row along the street.  After a little pruning, we had four nice little shrubs in the yard and a lot of cement.  A nice surprise was the abundance of tiny rose hips that each wild rose on the property gave us that year and every year since.  They are one of the highest sources of vitamin c, so make a healthy antioxidant tea when crushed and steeped.

We have been here for almost six years.  Every year I have added more perennials and shade plants, fruit shrubs and trees, and lots of nursery rose bushes.  As the beds became more established, I would transplant one of the wild roses to another bare place on the property to let it fill the space while other plantings would become established. 

I am down to one wild rose in the front yard this year. 

The beds are so full now that transplanting that remaining wild rose tops my gardening To-do list.

The largest wild rose I transplanted to near the patio/farmyard gate and have been training it to grow in an arch over the sidewalk for the last three years.  It's finally there, but takes a lot of pruning to keep it from dangling down and scratching us when we try to go through the gate. 

It isn't called a "wild" rose for nothing, in fact, the foliage of the mountains has only recently turned green, but I have already pruned that rose bush twice this spring.

Another, I had planted within an obelisk in the herb garden when I was getting the structure of the farmyard and beds established.  An overabundance of water Iris has made a nice border for that bed, but the wild rose in the center always grows so out of control that we have trouble walking down the sidewalk without it catching us with its tiny, sharp thorns.  I was trying to walk down that sidewalk the other morning and rather than ducking to get under the long boughs of prickly wild rose, I decided to do something about it once and for all.  I trimmed it into a tree shape, dug it up along with the obelisk, removed the obelisk by taking it apart around the shrub, and transplanted the shrub in a large pot. 

I then took an old shovel handle (I knew I was right not to throw that away and would find a use for it some day) and used it as a large stake to bind the rose canes to.  It worked like a charm and I was left with an attractive wild rose tree which I moved to my yoga patio. 

It will require almost weekly pruning to keep my wild rose tree in shape and because I have pruned it before its one flowering period of the year, I will not get to watch it bloom, but I am very happy with my salvaged, salvaged, and re-salvaged wild rose bush. 

The best part is that my little rose tree was free and has always filled a need in the garden. 

I learned early on that you cannot kill a wild rose, but now I've learned that you can tame one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Use For Eggs

Okay, this isn't really a blog post, but this is such a good idea, I wanted to share it.  I don't think I'll buy peat pellets ever again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where Have I Been?!

Wow!  I can't believe I haven't blogged for six days, it feels like I've only missed a couple.  I have no idea why or what I have been doing.  It's all a blur.  Alien abduction?  Just busy, busy, busy, I guess.  It has been a good week and it feels like we've turned some kind of corner.

The garden is ready for planting and already has cool weather vegetable seeds scattered.  I also spent most of Thursday building a new chicken run for the girls.  We are ready if I can just figure out how to keep that little Bantam in the run.  She's a little Houdini and I just know if she hasn't already scratched up and eaten our seeds, that as soon as they sprout she will eat them.

I have decided once and for all, at the urging of my chiropractor, to give up on natural rosacea remedies and go ahead and see a dermatologist.  He showed me pictures of what my face will look like if I wait to see if "this" and "that" will work.  I am just at the beginning stages so am going to try to catch it.  I'm allergic to both kinds of antibiotics I've been on, though, so am really nervous to try another.  We'll see.

Tax season is over.  Hubby's a tax software developer, so this is a huge deal for our little family.  Now we can finally take off for a few days.  I am so homesick for Florida.  Last year at this time I was desperate to get home while oil was spilling into the Gulf.  I was so sure my home state was going to be ruined for the remainder of my lifetime.  We couldn't get down because my husband was recovering from surgery and had used up all of his vacation days for the surgery.  Can't wait to pack up the van, load my little family in with pillows and blankets and drive until I see the silhouette of Spanish Moss dangling from hundred year old oaks, Altoids and Def Leppard to keep me awake.  I don't dare listen to my love song to Florida, Ghost Story, by Sting, for fear that Hubby will come home to find us already on our way.

Spring is really here.  Everything's green and fluffy.  We cleaned up around the concord grape trellis and are ready to train the vines on the new wire we have strung.  Maybe this year I will finally get out the wine making kit that my dad passed down to me, to see if I can figure out how to use it.  It will be a race to get to the ripened grapes before the deer do.  I didn't make it last year.  I also didn't get to use many leaves for stuffing before the Japanese Beetles got to them.  I'm going to have to find a more aggressive way to fend them off.  We have used the little bags that carry attractant, but it never seems to help much.  I also read that the attractant causes more problems the following year because they lay eggs near the bag and more beetles emerge in the summer. 

Went to Paula Deen's Kitchen last weekend.  I'm not a big fan of hers, though I have to admit she's a fabulous cook, just can't tolerate watching her for more than a few minutes on her show.  Her restaurant was wonderful.  We are so happy to have it close to our home.  There aren't many dining choices in an area as small as ours and it was much nicer than I had imagined it would be.  I'm going to blog about our experience on Edible Tapestry.

Okay, there's a difference between blogging and rambling.  I think I'm rambling at this point.  It's now 2 a.m and I'm so sleepy I can't see straight.  Time to hit the hay and see what the rest of the week brings.  My favorite Ernest Hemingway quote is, "Write drunk, edit sober."  I think when I read my sleepy ramblings when the sun comes up I will fully understand what he meant. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mother Nature Doesn't Always Know

I'm always nervous when I see my hens and ducks pecking and eating anything green in the garden this time of year.  I worry that they won't know if something is toxic to them or not.  Then I decide that they must instinctively know what they can eat and can't eat.

I walked past my beautifully draped, Grecian pot of what I call "sedum" because that's what it looks like to me, and realized my ducks, who had been out of their house for the past few days, had pecked it to death.  My first thought was, "Well, at least I got a picture of it the other day before they ate it." 

Then, I wondered if it was okay for them to eat.  We had just discussed, my boys and I, how the ducks don't realize that they are domestic and much heavier than their wild cousins and ancestors, so when they go to take off in flight, they seem confused when they realize they are grounded.  Their instincts aren't quite accurate.

Not long ago, my neighbor called, desperately needing ground ginger for her very sick little herd of goats who had eaten something they shouldn't have.  My first question was, "Don't they know what they should and shouldn't eat?"  I guess not.  She was able after a few days to nurse them back to health but wasn't sure what it was they had eaten and won't know the next time either, I suppose.

Nature is funny that way.  I remember twice, at two different natural spring parks in Florida witnessing squirrels leap from tree to tree like I'd seen thousands of times, and miss.  One landed flat on his stomach a good thirty feet below, looked stunned for a second, and then ran back up the same tree, I guess to try again.  It was hilarious to see a wild creature goof up like we clumsy humans do all the time.  The other missed the tree he was leaping toward and landed in the water next to me.  And yes, he did look just like I'd imagine a drowned rat would look.

Another thing that baffles me is when my female duck lays an egg, then walks all over it.  The chickens are extremely overprotective of theirs, taking turns brooding on the day's production, even cackling when one of us collects them to bring in the house.  Not Mrs. Bickerson.  I did a little research to see if a domestic Pekin would sit on her eggs and care for them until they hatch if we left them.  I learned that in the wild a female duck will make a nest near a water source in the soft mud and take turns sitting on them with the male.  We let the ducks out of their house overnight to see what they would do.  Day one, I actually watched her lay an egg for the first time.  I've never seen it happen.  I just happened to wake up in the morning and look out the bedroom window that looks onto the farmyard.  She was pacing from one corner of a raised vegetable bed to the other.  She would hunker down in each corner then move to other.  Finally, she just dropped it between the two spots which cracked me up.  We left it there to see if she would choose that as her nesting spot.  The poor little egg lay abandoned for the day, no one taking the time to keep it warm until the next morning she laid another right beside it.  I was feeling hopeful but on day three...there was an egg smack dab in the middle of the path that we all use to get from the sidewalk to the hen house.  It was near the pond, so maybe her instincts were working, but that doesn't account for the two neglected eggs in the garden bed.

So I guess Mother Nature doesn't always know.  At no other point is this more apparent to me as when on various trips through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our summer playground, we have seen a crowd of people hovered around a mother bear and her cubs.  Sometimes Mother Nature's children are just plain stupid.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mmmm! Min-tea Fresh!

I completely forgot to check while scouting around the little farm last week to see if the mint was coming up.  The mint is one of the first things we noticed about the property when we were looking to buy it.  It was growing like crazy around one of the patios and sidewalks in the backyard and between cracks in a rock wall.
It comes up very early and stays until the first deep freeze.  I dry it all through the season so I have plenty to get us through the winter.  It goes in all of my Greek cooking and we make tea with it.  The boys have asthma and menthol is great for their lungs both inhaled and ingested.

This morning I noticed it when I looked out the window.  Then my son came in from messing around in the farmyard and asked if he could pick some mint.  He brought in a whole basket full of long, green sprigs.

While he made himself a cup of hot tea, I made a gallon of black/green/mint iced tea. 

It reached 85 yesterday and after a mountain top hike we are all still feeling a bit dehydrated.  Nothing a tall glass (or jar in my case; love drinking from a quart-sized mason) of iced mint tea can't fix.

Recipes I use that call for mint:

Gyros, Pita, and Tzaziki Sauce

Mint Julep

Greek Beef Stew over Minted Orzo

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm not the person I was a year ago, I'm finally who I've always been.

"Finding yourself" is a strange thing, especially at age 38.  When you've been lost for almost 40 years, then you finally figure out who you are and accept that person as "right" and "alright", you basically re-parent yourself from the crib.  Finding myself after all this time of searching has required me to go back and reevaluate my life from that far back.  I literally had to pinpoint pivotal moments, good and bad, in my life that have shaped who I am today.  I've had to go back to places in my life at different stages when I didn't feel alright or was told that I was not okay the way I was, and tell that me in that time the message I wish I'd heard at those moments.  It's been like editing a novel.  I know because I have two unfinished novels and this is exactly why they aren't finished and will most likely never be published.  I go back from line one, chapter one and "fix" everything over and over.  During the past year, I have done the same with the story of my life, gone back and mentally and emotionally ironed out the wrinkles. 

I didn't plan on any of this happening.  So many things occurred at once until, like an overfilled balloon, I basically burst and knew it was all over.  I was done.  Answers fell into place.  I could finally see what were problems and what were other people's problems that they imposed upon me.  My whole life I'd had to listen to their noise.  I was never good enough.  I could never do anything right.  I realized when these people, who should have accepted me for who I am, started doing the same thing to my son, that it would never end, but it had to end.  I had given my life to my children and have worked on building confidence in them from day one.  I wasn't going to let people who thought it was okay to do that to a child, do it to mine.  When I finally stood up for myself in standing up for him, they distanced themselves from me.  When this happened, I was surprised to find that I very quickly began to feel relief.  I realized that my own uncertainties and confidence problems stemmed from the constant criticism and fear of criticism that I had always received from these individuals.  With the quiet, finally came peace.  I realized that it was their voices that I was hearing when I doubted myself and if they were no longer "voicing" their opinions their voices were going away and so were my low self-esteem issues.  I had been liberated.

During this last year, I've thought that some day I may regret the time that is being lost and I should attempt to recreate bonds with these individuals.  I have even tried a little.  All I got was more noise.  My life has been so blissfully quiet, quiet enough for me to actually think, that I knew right away that I did not want or need this noise back in my life.  I may have changed, and I know for certain that I have without all of the noise, but the noisemakers will always need to make noise.  I am not wasting time wishing for relationships that will never be.  I always waited and hoped for these relationships to blossom into something beautiful, but there was always just noise.  So, whatever happens, happens.  I can't deal with what they think is "normal" relationship behavior.  I don't need it.  Now that it's finally quiet I see how toxic it was to my sensitive soul. 

Every day is like a new day.  I actually think about how to care for myself each day and for the first time I listen to my inner voice tell me what it needs.  It was always there, but it seems like whatever it needed was criticized or poked fun at, and I was told I needed to "lighten up" or "don't take things so seriously" if I didn't like it or protested.'s so quiet, finally.  My only fear now is if any of the "noisemakers" stumble upon one of my blogs.  I know for certain that everything I've written would be picked apart, line by line.  I never know why it's that way.  My husband and dear friends tell me it's typical bully behavior, knock someone down to make yourself look bigger.  I guess so and I know I can't change it, so for now, whether the noisemakers come back around again or whether I let them come around, I am just enjoying being the person I always was but hadn't yet met.  Amazing!! 

I have also begun to realize that, though I need to be true to myself and am allowed to put an end to what I see as injustices that affect myself or my children, I can work on what level I allow these incidents to impact my attitude.  I do have control over my environment and no longer worry so much about "rocking the boat".  I don't have to sit and smile politely.  I did that and it all blew up anyway.  Sit quietly and smile politely and it's held against you.  Voice your protest and you are criticized.  Can't win.  If the noise starts back up will I be able to handle it with grace?  I'm not sure.  Will my confidence be shattered the next time someone criticizes me?  Never again.  I finally know that another person's perception of me is not what makes me.

"It is when all our somethings are collapsing that we may finally turn to nothing, and find there everything we need." —Martha Beck

"You must dare to disassociate yourself from those who would delay your journey... Leave, depart, if not physically, then mentally. Go your own way, quietly, undramatically, and venture toward trueness at last."--Vernon Howard

"Don't try to fix me, I'm not broken." Amy Lee

"Take a minute to breath and notice where you feel loneliness. Let it come to the surface and honor it. These are the places where you are living half way instead of all the way. Notice whether you can go more into your self or more into the outside world. DO IT. Go all the way as YOU, it's the half way that feels lonely."-- Ane Axford

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Perfect Day on the Mini Farm

It's a good thing we started math early today, because we were able to spend the afternoon outside messing around on the property.  It was too beautiful to be stuck inside.  The boys had big projects to do this week and lots of new math.  They got their projects done early and there were no hitches with the math. 

I had to go back in to get my camera, the little farm was looking so pretty.  I've been hearing a frog near our pond and, sure enough, I started to walk past it and barely caught a glimpse of him hopping in from a rock.  I waited and waited, but couldn't see him to take a picture.  I am hoping for tadpoles and was able to get lots of other photos of our day.  It ended with a patio fire and roasted marshmallows after an evening of watercolor and archery lessons.  Watercolor for the little guy from me, archery for the teen on his first night with his new archery group.  It was really a perfect day. 

We got our herb garden started indoors.  Waiting for the last frost date of the year to transplant.
Should have done this a month or even two months ago, but finally started seeds for the vegetable garden.
Still too cold in the potting shed right now, so the best place for the seeds is in the laundry room window over the dryer.  They should be nice and warm until they sprout.
Good girls!!

Hosta coming up.

Bleeding Hearts
Weigela I bought at the tailgate market last year.  Can't wait for it to bloom.
Wags IV.  Our little dog who made us smile after Wags III went to greener pastures at age 15.  He's TOO cute!
A used-to-be rose tree that I'm working on training into tree form again.
Raspberries cultivated from a wild species.  Looks like we may not have to go to our regular U-Pick farm this year.
I found four raspberry sprouts.  I just have to figure out where to put them.

Water Iris.  Yes, water.  I don't know anything about Iris plants except that I bought two little plants to grow beside our pond three or four years ago and was able to divide and divide and divide them.  I have them everywhere and none actually in the pond even though they were being sold as aquatic plants.  Talk about "bang for your buck"!


My little daisy fountain the little dog tried to kill.  Hubby and son fixed it.  Music to my ears!
Buffy, the Buff Orpington.  She's one of the four new chicks we brought home last spring.
Two of the Golden Comets taking a dirt bath in an Iris patch.
Checkers, the Barred Rock, and Peck, the Rhode Island Red, cleaning out one of my herb gardens, getting it ready for planting.  It was the chickens' last day out.  I'm planting root vegetables tomorrow and have learned in the past that the chickens will scratch up and eat any seeds I plant and nibble seedlings to nubs as soon as they sprout.  They'll have to wait until the garden is good and established before they can come scratching around again.
Bunny feet and cotton tails.  Is there anything cuter?  Bunny ears and twitchy noses, maybe?  I don't know.  I never can make up my mind.

I wish all my herbs could survive single digit winters like this three year old oregano has.
Some kind of Sedum?  The little farm came with it and I take tiny little bits and stick them in pots and beds and they take off.  I love them.  I can't find an exact i.d. for them, but they are certainly some kind of succulent.
Lots and lots of Iris from those initial two!
The mountain is waking up!  Bits of leafy green showing.

A quick dinner of chicken and couscous.

A little art lesson.

Patio fire on a warm evening...

...with roasted marshmallows.  Perfect day!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This Hoer's Gone Topless.

Huge, huge storm last night!  Apparently, it was bad all through the South.  The top of our big, beautiful Tulip Tree that I was waiting to watch bloom was whipped off in the storm and is laying in the backyard. 

We have always been grateful that the people who settled and developed the layout of our property, kept the treeline far from the house.  It didn't land close to the house, but now we know for sure that if one of those big, old trees come down, we are pretty safe where we sleep. 

Also, not enough of the treeline has changed for it to be too noticeable.  I will miss the top of that tree, it's probably the first thing I look at in the morning as soon as my eyes can focus.  I have a habit of heading to the bathroom window and opening the shutters to look at our beautiful view while brushing my teeth.

Another good thing is that it missed the fence.  We are new at this whole "mini-farm" thing and are not the best at putting up fences that can keep our dogs in and critters out, that look nice too.  That section of fence is the tidiest in appearance.  The bonus is that we will have lots of patio and campfire wood for the summer.  I really want to build a mud oven or outdoor brick oven, so will need lots of wood for baking.  I don't know yet if Tulip Tree wood is safe to cook with.

Glad that we are safe.  It could have been much worse if the roaring that was going on out there all night was any indication.  At one point it sounded like a jet plane screaming across the sky.  I have never heard that before and am assuming that was the powerful wind that snapped the top of the tree off.   So, while our tree is going topless for a few years, I am still loving the view.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Race To End Cannibalism

I had a very traumatic experience yesterday.  I found myself in the middle of a race to end a cannibalistic attack that left me exhausted and shaken.  It was "fish buying day".  The day we had promised our son that he could pick out three new fish for the aquarium that he was given for Christmas.  The whole snail thing didn't last long and he was promised fish to replace them. 

We don't like the pet store we have in town, it smells horrible, is overcrowded, dirty, and doesn't seem like a very good place to buy a pet, though we purchased our two rabbits from there a few years ago and the snails that I've already mentioned.  There aren't any other pet stores open on a Sunday within a good 75 to 100 mile radius, so we headed over the mountain to the Walmart Supercenter in the next town to buy his fish. 
He had his heart set on a "Puffer" which is a fresh water fish that looks just like the salt water version, minus the spikes and the ability to actually puff.  We chose two other fish that the label under the Puffer said were compatible. 

We were smart enough to choose our other purchases first, selecting the fish just before checking out, but the store was packed and only three ordinary and three "20 items or less" registers were open when we got to a checkout line.  Of course we had the slowest clerk in discount store history, of course, my son's gift card that he was using to buy other things didn't work and a CSM had to be called, of course they were under-staffed on such a busy weekend day and the CSM took a good 10 minutes to arrive, and of course we forgot a very important item that my husband and children ran back to get while I waited on a bench with our cart full of purchased groceries, holding a bag of fish. 

While I waited, wondering how long fish could stay in a bag, knowing it had already been 15 to 20 minutes and we still had a 45 minute drive ahead of us, two little toddlers, cute as buttons, were climbing up and down the bench I was sitting on using my leg and arm to get up and down.  I smiled politely at them and their parents, but was struggling to keep the fish bag from shaking and sloshing too much. 

Another ten minutes or so passed, and I couldn't see my family in any of the checkout lines.  Through all of the commotion of being used as a ladder while trying to hold the bag still, I would feel the bag shake from the inside and was happy that at least my son had chosen the most active fish from the each of the tanks, and his aquarium viewing hobby wouldn't be as short-lived as it had been during the whole snail incident.  Have you ever watched snails moving around?  It took us at least a week, no joke, to decide if they were actually dead or not.  They were...very much so.

I finally decided, after another ten minutes of waiting and being unable to see my family anywhere from my post, that I needed to call my husband and remind him that we had fish we needed to get home.  I don't remember how I managed to hold the bag, dig my phone from my purse and dial, but I do remember saying, "I have fish.", when he answered.  He laughed a little, like I'd thought he'd forgotten, which of course I had, and I told him that we had some active fish and I could feel them moving every once in a while.

Not long after I ended the call, I saw my husband and the boys in the far "20 items or less" line and decided to see what all the commotion in the fish bag was about.  Well, the largest and most beautiful fish was missing a tail and dorsal fin and I immediately realized why when I witnessed the Puffer attacking him over and over again, literally eating him alive.  I knew the next bite would take a chunk out of his flesh and I couldn't bear to watch it.  The race was on!

Again, I don't remember how I managed while holding the bag or even if I took my purse and the cart with me, but I carried the fish bag across the front of the store to where my husband was in line.  He smiled sweetly when he saw me, but knew something was wrong by the look on my face.  I said I needed the receipt, but didn't really want to say in front of my son what the problem was.  I realized that if I was going to get the Puffer out of the bag and return him, that I'd have to tell him why, so quickly I told them, got the receipt and hurried to customer service.  There was a line.  I skipped ahead and asked if I could hurry back to the fish dept. to have the fish guy take a fish out that was eating another one in the bag.  My husband popped around the corner and I gave him the receipt to let him deal with the girl behind the register when she nodded for me to go, and rushed back to the fish tanks.  

Somehow along the way, I managed, after a few more attacks from the Puffer, to section off the injured fish in one corner of the bag until I reached the fish dept.   I have never seen anyone near the fish department, but of course at this critical moment, there was a line.  The good news was, the fish guy was right there so I didn't have to go all the way to the sports department to have them send someone over.  I was willing to wait for the three people in front of me until my hand slipped and the little, hurt fish was in danger again.  I couldn't get him separated from the Puffer, and the Puffer was ready to attack.  I jumped to the front and explained my situation to the lady next in line and she told me to go ahead of her.  Fish guy said he was afraid that the Puffer would attack the others when he put him in there earlier.  Why didn't you warn us, I wondered, but didn't say anything.  I did mention, while he struggled with the knot on the fish bag, that they should not list fish on the signs as compatible if they are not. 

So, the fish was saved, they gave us our money back for the Puffer, and even though I was sure the little injured fish couldn't survive the night without his tail or dorsal fin, my son decided he wanted to take him home anyway, to see if he would make it.  I thought that was a nice thing to do, but didn't tell him that I was sure that if we returned him too, that he would be flushed down the nearest commode.

What amazes me about this whole little incident is that I can go fishing with the intention of hooking a fish by the mouth and gutting it before fileting and eating it, but I was so upset by watching this silly little aquarium fish being cannibalized by another that I had to do something, immediately, to try to stop it.  I was worried about my son and how it would affect him to have his pets simply eat each other, but it was just plain awful to watch.  Will this have any effect on my desire to purchase my annual fishing license and stomp along the banks of a creek in search of dinner?  Not at all, but I will still always be squeamish about putting live bait on a hook and I will do my research before purchasing any other aquarium fish.

The little guy refused to name his injured fish, wanting to wait to see if he was still alive in the morning.  Today the fish has a name, Guppy, but is bleeding near his tail a bit now.  He seems active so we are feeling hopeful.