Some box turtles

Lots of box turtles over the past few weeks:

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Box turtles are not tortoises, though they appear to live like them. Unlike most species of tortoise, Eastern box turtles require high humidity and relatively mild temperatures.

They are actually quite closely related to aquatic turtles, but they can’t actually swim like the true water turtles can.

The local name for a box turtle is “land terrapin,” which is actually pretty good. On the East Coast, the diamondback terrapin was once a very common turtle that was often eaten.

Box turtles used to be commonly eaten as well, and I guess the meat is similar to the diamondback terrapin.

And they sort of look a bit a like.

It’s still better than calling the tortoises. In fact, a lot of box turtles sent to Europe as pets quickly died because they were kept in high heat, low humidity environments, which would be the correct way to keep many species of true tortoise.

The species isn’t rare in the least in West Virginia, but they are a species of concern in Ohio. Their trade is now strictly regulated through CITES, so they are far less common on the pet market than they used to be.

Last year, some idiot got caught selling box turtles across state lines.

So don’t think you can collect box turtles and sell them as a get rich quick scheme!


Canis lupus hominis

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Just keep swimming

Has it already been a week since my mother died? I feel like I’ve been in a haze, dropped in the middle of the ocean and swimming only because I have to, not because I actually know where I’m going. I’ve found a new appreciation for Dory, a different nuance in Finding Nemo.

I don’t know why life insists on dumping everything on us all at once instead of pacing things one month at a time, but it seems to be a rather consistent theme. What I’d like to be doing right now is sitting in bed with the sheet over my head, but there’s just too much to do.

When a death ends, the work just begins. Closets to go through and memorials to plan and family dynamics to breathe through. In this case, all these tasks are intermingled with the other responsibilities of being a mother as well as a daughter. I pick my mother’s casket, and on the way home pick out a birthday cake for my son. That sort of thing.

My daughter graduated fifth grade this week. I was not really aware fifth grade graduation was a big deal. I thought we might hear a song, clap politely, and get on with it. I was sorely mistaken. What we were in for was a two hour event with five speeches, two processions, music, slideshows, choreography. It was longer than my high school and college graduation combined.

The line for the auditorium starts an hour and a half early. I walk into the auditorium with the grandparents behind me, mentally counting off the number of seats I needed: 2, 2, 2….oh. 2, 2, and 1. It’s the little moments like this that catch you unaware. Mom would never have missed a graduation.

When the ceremony finally ended and the kids file into the lobby, I pull out the flower bouquet my father picked up for us on his way over. I hand it to my daughter, who stands surrounded by children wearing leis made of dollar bills. Mom would have brought a lei. She always did stuff like that. My daughter smiles politely, seeming vaguely disappointed, but she always seems vaguely disappointed. I am told this is part of being a tween. I am too tired to care.

I was supposed to volunteer at the promotion picnic today, but I leave early because I have to get Brody to the groomer in advance of the family arriving this weekend for the memorial. That, and order programs, write a eulogy, bring an end of the year gift to the teacher, bring a blanket to the funeral home, clean the house, find something to wear, pick up the kids from school, celebrate something, I guess. People offer to help, but these are all tasks I need to do myself.

I am exhausted, in a bone wearying way I didn’t know could exist.

Brody comes back from the groomer, and sits next to me on the couch. He is never disappointed with his lot in life. He just is. I put my head on his back and inhale, feeling the rising waves of grief intruding on my to-do list. He smells like one of those old Strawberry Shortcake dolls. When I cry, he doesn’t say anything or search for unhelpful platitudes or edge away uncertainly. He is surprisingly absorbent.

He is here, breathing with me. It is enough. For now, he is enough.

Ha

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Fluffing up a Peke

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Profound Things

I wrote my mother’s eulogy the day of the service, this Sunday. I was stuck. I wanted to share all the profound things we had said to one another over the years, but we just didn’t have that kind of relationship defined by meaningful, deep philosophical conversations. As I sat with Brody’s head in my lap, it occurred to me that we also did not share in deep conversations, but it never lessened our bond. As soon as I thought about that, it all started to come.

My mother was not one for profound conversations. Don’t get me wrong- she was a profound thinker, absolutely, but I think she found the idea of sitting around talking about philosophy either pretentious, or simply a distraction from the things that really mattered, like dessert. This was a hard thing for me to accept.

I spent my whole life waiting for us to have those deep, intense, heart to heart talks where we would bond over politics, being a woman, or a mother, or a wife. It was really important to me that my mother and I share that kind of moment, and I’ve been working at getting her to engage in one with me for as long as I can remember.

I started when I was eight, by attempting to start a Mom and Me Book Club discussion. I said, “Mom, what does the word ‘conceive’ mean?” I often asked her about words I didn’t quite understand.

She said, “What’s the context?”

So I opened up my Judy Bloom book from the library and read, “I was conceived under the Million Dollar Pier.”

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She pursed her lips, pointed to the Encyclopedia Britannica and told me to look it up. That was the end of Mom and Me Book Club, though to her credit, she never once banned me from reading Judy Blume- or anything else, really.

When I was in high school, my subversive reading habits led me to writing all sorts of editorials for the school newspaper about the availability of birth control for teens, the failures of the Oceanside Unified School District, Administrative Team, abortion. I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. No one could figure out how I grew up to be such a diehard feminist. They all thought my sweet little mom would be mortified to know what I was saying. She knew. She’s the one who planted the seeds in my head in the first place.

Still, I was bound and determined for us to get our deep moment of profound conversation. I kept giving her chance after chance. When I went away to college, I was down for every holiday, and many weekends. She was there for every milestone event in my life. She was at the birth of both my children, the doctor’s appointments when I was worried about something scary, the triumphs and the defeats and the myriad tiny moments in between.

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When the kids got older, we’d meet for lunch every week. Brian hated those lunch meetings, because ‘lunch’ was always followed by ‘shopping.’ She’d always convince me that I needed a new pair of boots, a necklace, a pair of earrings. She did not believe in practical gifts. Gifts should be beautiful and shiny and able to be physically opened and lord help you if you used one of those little gift bags instead of wrapping it with actual paper and ten pounds of curling ribbon.

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Christmas, 1980-something ish.

Our interactions were a lot like those presents: plentiful, beautiful, and fun.

When she got sick, I panicked, because I was thinking, you know, all this time together, hours and hours and hours, and we still haven’t had those profound conversations that mothers and daughters are supposed to have.

I tried, once, to talk to her about what was going on, and she said, “That’s depressing. Pshaw. Turn on Harry Potter.”

I asked her if she could have anything, what would it be. Anything, Mom. And she said, “I want to go and watch the balloons in your backyard.” That was our life these last two months, Harry Potter and balloons and just being together.

I sat with her every day, Dad and I and the kids, making sure that when she was ready to impart her wisdom, I was not going to miss it. So when Dad was taking the kids to swim class, and I was sitting next to her on the bed, she held my hand, looked at me, and said in as earnest a tone as I have ever heard, ‘Can I ask you about something?’

I was thrilled. This was it. This was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life.

“Of course, mom.”

She took a deep breath, fixed me with her gaze, and said, “Do you know what Spotted Dick is?’

“It’s a spotted pudding, right? What made you think of that?”

“I don’t know. It sounds gross.”

“OK, Mom. I won’t make you eat one.” She giggled.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

As the weeks wound down to days, I knew I had to figure this out if I was going to be able to move forward without regrets about wisdom left unshared. So I thought about what Mom would tell me to do- and I looked it up.

I found a book about dying, and it laid out the things that you’re supposed to say in order for someone you love to be able to die peacefully: I forgive you. I love you. We’re going to be ok.

I put the book down and shook my head. That’s all they had to say?

Forgive? There’s nothing to forgive. There were no unresolved hurts.

I love you? That’s nothing new. We said that every day.

We’re going to be ok? She knew that. We were always trusted to figure things out for ourselves, and though she was there for me if I needed her, I rarely did.

And that’s when I finally figured it out. There is no need to have profound conversations when you live a profound life. She truly did lead by example, with grace, kindness, toughness. For all those friends and family who are so upset that they didn’t get a chance to tell her something, don’t fret. She knew. And you knew her.

I will never have to wonder what advice she would give me in the long days ahead, where she would have stood on an issue. She has built a place in my heart minute by minute and day by day for decades now, and now that she’s disappeared inside its confines, I will never worry about whether or not she is there.

She is.

mom

Patricia Anne Marzec, the greatest woman I’ve known.

 

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Hi Inderific. We agree that the graphic is shockin…

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Here's the link to the Oakland sales:
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Nov 8, Dogs that catch their own fish

Some dogs prefer fish over meat, but trying to catch a salmon is a nice hobby for every dog.


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A pat on the head

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