A Dire Wolf moved in…

Image by Veirgacht

On a typical hot, steamy night in our swamp, I woke up to find that Teddy had transmogrified into Shrek, snoring as only an ogre can.  My industrial strength ear plugs had fallen out so I sleepily tread the well-worn path to the front bedroom at the other side of our hovel.  I fell asleep almost immediately only to wake in the wee hours needing to use the bathroom.  The toilet tissue was running low so I blithely reached into the cabinet under the sink to get a new roll.  Then I saw her, screamed and gently shut the door.  She looked at me with the same horror.  Yes, her eyes were that big.  It was my first tree roach of the season.  Let’s call her Teresita.

For those of you who don’t live in the south of Texas, we have something much scarier than our alligators, water moccasins and recluse spiders.  My fear was such that it may as well have been a Dire Wolf, most recently of Game of Thrones, but actually an extinct giant wolf.  Tree roaches are really large roaches that FLY!  If you do a Google search for Tree Roaches Texas you will find endless hilarious stories of newcomers who firstly can’t believe the size of the critters (mine was about 2 inches long) and then their horror when the beast flew towards them.  Their true name is the American Cockroach and they are not quite as filthy as German Cockroaches, the regular smaller ones that you see up north. Ours wear MAGA hats. In Florida they call tree roaches Palmetto bugs as a way to fancy them up.

I went back to bed with trepidation because the last time I found a tree roach it was under my pillow (shudder) in that front bedroom.  The wisest action was not to look and I fell into a troubled sleep.  The next morning, I started removing everything from the bathroom cabinet.  There was mouse sized Tree Roach poop everywhere!  Just as I removed the 12th toilet roll (it is hurricane season and we are fully stocked), the monster jumped out at me.  I screamed again but was mad as hell that it had pooped all over everything so I attempted to crush her.  She scuttled back into a hole behind the cabinet or should I say Cockroach Condo.  Dang it!

Related image

This is not my hand!

Eventually I emptied everything and washed the plastic bottles in bleach, the rest went in the trash.  The inside of the cabinet was cleaned with neat bleach and then I found the deadly bug killer to spray in the hole.  Usually I use a completely ineffective ‘green’ bug spray that a Tree Roach would use for salad dressing.  I like to live in harmony with all God’s creatures but the roaches have to stay outside.  Then I called the bug man – who is afraid of Tree Roaches.  Now that’s exposure therapy.  His favorite Macho tale is when he first encountered Tree Roaches on a military base.  He was in a storage shed and he saw three Tree Roaches blocking the doorway.  ‘No problem’, he thought, ‘I can just stomp on them’.  Not if they fly in your face – then you run out screaming like a girl.

I considered calling the bug man earlier when we had a millipede invasion all over the larger Houston area.  Every day I rescued or swept up dozens of millipedes.  They are harmless and don’t scare me so I just ignored them.  Maybe all the rainy weather has created a glut of them.  When they die, they curl up in a little ball and it looked like a fossil extinction zone in every corner of the house.  The spiders tried their best to help me out and every web was filled with millipedes.  When you live in Texas you need to love your spiders because they catch the other stuff!  The Dire Wolf under the sink provoked a spring cleaning like none other.  Then I discovered another dead tree roach in a kitchen cabinet so all the pots had to be washed.

Working my way around the kitchen cabinets, I finally found sugar ants had got into the sugar.  Really??  Don’t you think I had been through enough?  My O.C.D. was boiling into a crazy ferment.  Sugar ants are harmless too but it was three species too many.  The hovel house is now very, very clean and there are no bugs.  It was a rather expensive visit from the Dire Wolf (and friends) by the time I paid the bug man and restocked the toilet rolls, tissue, cotton wool and sugar.  One of my neighbors had a blue tongued Skink living in her garage – they look like truncated snakes with very wide bodies.  She was horrified that its poop had cockroach carapaces in it.  Please come and live with me, blue tongued Skink – free food and friendly humans.

Image result for free image blue tongued skink

Blue Tongued Skink

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Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

This is my third attempt at writing this post; maybe it is the charm this time?  How do I make a post about illness funny or readable?  I thought I would try alliteration and show you the real sign at my front door.  It certainly breaks the ice with new neighbors and solicitors (not lawyers…)   I bought it in Colorado and knew that it was perfect for me.  Life is funny.   As most of you know, I have a mental illness  – variously diagnosed over the years.  It was managed for many years with gritted teeth, therapy and alcohol.  Then we moved to Egypt and I have been on Prozac or something similar since 2003.

For the most part it has been a lifesaver although a much maligned drug.  If it is properly prescribed, it is a fantastic modern medication that my sad mother would have benefited from.  There are side effects, for sure.  The best was stopping my compulsive eating/habits; the worst was ghastly nightmares every night.  Flash forward to late 2018 – I had been having sensations of tingling and numbness in my hands and feet for about 3 years.  I went from pillar to post ending up with an eminent neurologist at a university teaching campus.  Even he could not come up with a diagnosis after three hours of painful nerve tests.

Here is what I do have –

  • An abnormal gait likely caused by an untreated club foot at birth
  • Weakness in my hands and feet
  • Hammer toes
  • Pes Cavus – abnormally shaped feet
  • Tingling and numbness in my extremities – hands and feet
  • A weird mental illness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Anxiety)

Here is what I don’t have –

  • Nerve damage in my hands or feet
  • Marie Tooth Charcot
  • Any other obvious neurological condition
  • Any vitamin deficiency

I left his office having been examined by some initially excited medical students who finally looked as perplexed as the Professor.  Did they think it was all in my head?  The irony is that Parasthesia , a sensation of tingling or numbness can be caused by anxiety.  After Googling until my hands went numb (some Parasthesia humor there…) I discovered that it can be a side effect of PROZAC!  Onto my next psychiatry appointment where we decided I would taper off and then quit Prozac while staying on a small dose of Xanax which is an anti-anxiety medication.

It has been bloody awful; not helped by attending a transatlantic family funeral mid tapering.  I didn’t even want to come off Prozac although I don’t miss the nightmares.  It has been a partial success.  The tingling and numbness has decreased although too much or too little exercise can exacerbate it.  Poor Teddy has borne the brunt of my sudden emergence into the real world.  I told him I wanted to stab in the heart when he baited me one day.  He just moved on as though I had made a comment about dust bunnies.  Wise move from a man who knows me intimately.  Road rage overwhelms me, as does life.  It is in vivid Technicolor and I don’t like it without my hazy filter.

With Teddy’s support, I am moving forward slowly like a lizard after winter.  He pointed out that I dealt with the transatlantic funeral, our elderly cat’s slow waltz towards the ever after and some minor household crises.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore but writing the Tumbleweed Fairy was a breakthrough.  Pragmatic is my middle name, so I know that I might have to try another medication or treatment and I am darned lucky to have healthcare.  For someone so unhealthy, I try to keep far away from doctors but I am willing to see one more neurologist to see if we can figure this out.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  It sounds like a minor problem but imagine it every single day, so debilitating at one point that I couldn’t twist the deodorant tube.  When I worked as manager of a mental health project in Scotland, I was so sympathetic for patients who had physical side effects (tardive dyskinesia) from anti-psychotic medication.  I don’t know for certain what is causing my tingling and numbness but now I have walked a mile in the shoes of many, many people.  On a final funny note, I will never be able to do a sobriety test.  Two doctors had to hold me up while I put one foot in front of the other.  How could I have lived to this age without having known this??  Straight to the breathalyzer for me then…🍾

 

A crimson of happiness

I just made Crimson a noun but Shakespeare messed with words all the time – ‘brevity is the soul of wit‘.  For the first time in 15 years our dwarf crimson crape has fully matured and she is beautiful.

Doesn’t she just make you happy?  Our neighbors love her.

Meet Shrimpy Shrimp, as I call our shrimp plant.  Shouldn’t all our plants be named?  The early botanists made a marvelous job with the Latin monikers.  This is her much more gracious formal name – Justicia Brandegeeana.  She seems to dance with hot pink petticoats.  Justicia is a native of Mexico and seems to love our garden as you can see from the shot below in front of our other pink crape.

I deliberately clothed the garden in pink at the front – it just looks so pretty together including the Ti plant which is to the right of the tree.  He is a Hawaiian native – aloha!

Even our dragons live in luxury on the porch with velveteen pink cushions.  This is a spotted Gecko, unnamed, as there are literally hundreds all over the garden.  You can name him if you like?

The Tumbleweed Fairy

Palo Duro Canyon

Thorn looked up at the endless cerulean sky and thought how much she would miss her canyon.  Palo Duro Canyon is the largest in Texas, close to the city of Amarillo and Thorn was a Tumbleweed fairy.  To her parents surprise and delight, Thorn was heading off to the Austin School of Fairies, the first in her family to do so.  Tumbleweed fairies are an anathema to the rest of the fairy world.  Their unique thorny wings and muted coloring are curious in a world of fairy beauty.  Even more strangely, the male and female of the species look very similar.  Most had names that were gender neutral.  Thorn’s siblings were Spiral, Tangle and Rustle – two were female.  Thorn’s hair was a tow headed mop of curls and her lovely round cornflower blue eyes sparkled in her cute little freckled face.  All Tumbleweed fairies have rounded light brown wings embellished with thorns – the perfect disguise in a canyon full of tumbleweeds.

Tumbleweeds are caricatured by humans and faerie folk and Thorn felt quite defensive about the merits of her fairy species.  In truth, Tumbleweed is a most fascinating plant substance; a ball of the thorny debris of the Amaranth species which includes beet.  Not only does the plant provide seeds and leaves for sustenance but Amaranth breaks up the soil to make it more suitable for farming maize and potatoes.  Thorn’s mom made a delicious oat meal from the Amaranth seeds, sweetened with honey.  Everything was kind of ‘plain’ in the Plains – the colors, the food, the folks.  Thorn thought with trepidation about her exotic future in Austin.  She had always dreamed about jalapenos and Tex-Mex food but would it burn her mouth and tummy?  How plain would she seem in the midst of Red River and Caribbean fairies? Thorn mentally shook herself; she was a Tumbleweed fairy.  Strong but flexible was their motto.

Amaranth By Lynk media 

Thorn’s successful application to the Fairy School had rested on the skill of her basket weaving. Her prospective professors had been charmed by the superficially simple baskets but they also felt that she, as a Tumbleweed fairy, would be a unique addition to the rather conservative school, adding to its renowned diversity.  It was a magical mirror image of human universities that seek to add color to their student bodies – except in this instance it was the lack of color, a peculiarity in the fairy world.   In the safety of Palo Duro Canyon, Thorn had lived a hard but happy life.  There were few luxuries and the weather could be extreme with snow, rain, sunshine and tornadoes.  Thorn’s clothes were practical; soft woven pants and tunics in shades of fawn and blue.  On cold winter evenings, they sheltered in fairy Tipis, embroidering simple but intricate patterns on their clothing with Orb Weaver spider silk that was dyed ocher, indigo and terracotta.  Like all fairy folks their lives reflected or influenced the humans they live among.  For fairy eons, Tumbleweed Fairies of Palo Duro Canyon had lived alongside their Native American neighbors.  First it was the Clovis and Folsom people, then the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa Tribes.  Thorn was proficient in Plains Indian language and understood all the other tongues including the most recent, English.  The Tumbleweed Tipis were identical to those of the Kiowa people but on a much smaller scale.  Native Americans have hunted in the canyon for thousands of years, making clothing, baskets and pottery from the local materials.  Thorn had the cutest little moccasins, warm and lined with cotton fluff.  Her mom had added little beads of turquoise and fossil wood.

Apache Basket, Mint Museum

Thorn’s Mom, Leaf, was worried sick about the cost of Fairy School but Thorn had received a full scholarship.  All they had to provide was her school uniform.  For the first time in three hundred years, the Fairy School had relaxed the uniform requirements.  Although Thorn would have to wear a plain blouse made from cream cotton, she could wear pants.  These were made from mule horn sheep hide; sueded until it was buttery soft with matching moccasins.  Mom was proud but perplexed about her ambitious daughter.  She was the first of their family to leave the canyon and was she ever coming back?  Perhaps the tawdry delights of Austin would tempt Thorn away from their practical life.  Like Thorn had, Mom gave herself a shake, and focused on how sensible her daughter was.  She would return with new skills to help the Tumbleweed Clan face the future.  Seed, Thorn’s Dad, was flying with her to Austin just to make sure she settled in.

Kiowa Tipis

Tumbleweed

The day of departure arrived and the Tumbleweed fairies gathered to say goodbye to Thorn.  Just like all the other Plains people, there were no tears just heartfelt wishes.  This was an opportunity that few other fairies received.  Thorn felt she should be grateful but humble; always remembering her roots.  She hugged her Mom and siblings then flew off holding Dad’s rough hewn hand.  It was a long flight to Austin and the weather changed.  It was so much warmer in the center of Texas.  They landed in the quadrangle just in time for the commencement address.  Thorn and her Dad walked into the auditorium trying not to gasp in astonishment at the great variety of fairies.

There were so many vivid colors in fairy species and the building.  Just like Hazel, Aiya, Ria and Blu before her, Thorn looked in astonishment at the reams of scarlet and golden fabrics adorning the building.  Then she started to notice all the fairies surrounding her.  Her neighbor was a boy from Belize with dark skin and hair contrasting with fantastic turquoise wings and eyes.  Balam’s skin was lightly dappled like a jaguar; his wings and eyes reflected the vivid waters around the Belizean Cays.  Instantaneously Thorn had her first crush!  Balam looked at her with equal astonishment – never had he seen thorny wings or so many freckles.  Her hair was wondrous like a ball of cotton.  Thorn and Balam were entranced by each other but Father Seed’s eyes flashed with to fairies from the Piney Woods, China, Greenland, the Amazon to Australia.  At last, with Australia, he saw some likenesses to the Tumbleweed clan.  Their coloring matched the arid surroundings of the Australian desert and although their skin was darker, their mops of tow hair made Thorn’s look tidy.  He sighed with relief knowing that Thorn would find her way in this strange place.  Then he noticed Balam and Thorn gazing at each other.  He started to worry until Balam’s father winked at him.  Both fathers chuckled – at least their children had found a new exotic friend.

All too soon, all the fairy families had to fly home leaving the new students to absorb the delights of first day at school.  The Principal of Fairy School personally welcomed all the new students at the evening repast where Thorn tentatively tasted baby squash and tomatillo tacos.   There were a number of completely new species attending the school, Thorn was one and Balam another.  They were both so unusual and gifted that the Principal brought them forward to explain a little about their species to the larger group.  After the show and tell, Thorn was surrounded by inquisitive little fairies.  Most were very polite and kind but there is always a mean fairy…  A Californian Golden Fairy, Sunbeam, asked if her if she was a boy or a girl.  It was an intimidating question by a stunning fairy; shimmering golden wings, long perfect golden curls and eyes the color of amber. In the human world she would have been a Barbie doll. Thorn very sensibly decided not to be offended but explained that both genders of the Tumbleweed species looked similar.  Further, she pointed out that, similarly, there are very few differences in the human species’ gender, less than in many other animals.  It was the right approach to take and in time Sunbeam became one of her many acquaintances.  Balam would always be her first friend, however, and he adored her especially because she was different.  His turquoise wings lightly fluttered when he looked at Thorn’s adorable freckled face but that is another story…

The End

Postscript

This little fairy story was just written for my own pleasure and therapy.  Life has been a little thorny lately and the Tumbleweed fairy story had been lurking in my mental files.  I wonder if the lack of color reflects my mood?  My wonderfully talented husband who sells his photographs on Getty Images contributed the first two images.  The magnificent aerial of Palo Duro canyon looks otherworldly.  Thank you also to Wikipedia for such informative links.

Scottish Veterans

Two Scottish Veterans in Buchanan Street, Glasgow

It is American Memorial Day on Monday 27th May to remember and honor those American servicemen who died while defending our country.  There are similar events all over the world.  In Britain we remember those fallen on the 11th day of the 11th month every year.

As an American I have so many ancestors who have fought and died for our country from the American Revolutionary War to the Civil War.  There may be others that I have yet to find.  As an American who was brought up in Scotland, I would like to pay tribute to four charming gentleman who I met on my sad trip to Scotland.

I mentioned the descriptive words disconnection, connection, familiarity and alienation in my last post.  So contradictory yet accurate.  As I walked towards my lunch date with school friends from yesteryear, I encountered various gentlemen in full military regalia.  I approached the first two and asked them if I could take their photograph.  They looked perplexed but pleased and I explained about my blog.

As I left the second group of servicemen, I thanked them for both their service and the photograph.  They looked at me as though I was a very friendly alien.  With my little blue passport and my transatlantic twang – that is exactly the right description.

Let us be thankful for all those who have given their lives in defense of their country.

 

I wish I had a dragon

Image by Josch13, Pixabay 

No, this is not Game of Thrones ode although Dany’s wrathful flyby of Kings Landing inspired the title and thoughts.  I have just returned from a sad transatlantic trip to Scotland for a family funeral.  It was not unexpected but somehow it is always a shock in the literal sense.  On the return trip, suffering a terrible flight with a revered south-east Asian airline, I drowned my sorrows with some unpalatable wine and wrote words on my magazine cover that conveyed how I had felt during the trip.

WRATH, GRIEF, SADNESS, REGRET, RELIEF, LONGING, THANKFULNESS, GRATITUDE, LONELINESS, RESENTMENT, AMUSEMENT, LOVE, CONNECTION, ALIENATION, BOREDOM, AFFECTION, ADMIRATION, JOY, FAMILIARITY, DISCONNECTION, HUMILITY, REFLECTION, EVOLUTION, ACCEPTANCE, IRRITATION

LOVE, LOVE AND MORE LOVE

I see my psychiatrist tomorrow and I think I will just hand him this list of words.  What will he make of it?  Such contradictions, so many emotions and counseling needed.  Funerals are such complex occasions.  Sometimes they are a celebration of a life lived well; sometimes the family gathering causes angst or the opposite.  This is not the time for me to write a memorial – my feelings are too raw.  For every kind comment there is an insensitive remark.  It has been years since my last visit to the old country and so much has changed.  I can no longer mention my country of birth, USA, with pride.  Do friends and strangers really think that the course of modern politics has been in any way influenced by me?  This is the plaque outside Glasgow’s City Halls were I graduated.  My economics lecturer was the local Communist political candidate.

The political climate is no better in the UK or Europe.  BREXIT; right wing Hungarian rule; Scottish Independence; modern day slavery in Italian fields that gives us our cheap tomatoes – to name a few. I see racism and bigotry on both sides of the pond.  As I left Glasgow airport and was waiting in the check-in line, I noticed a young woman sobbing from one end of departures to the other.  It wasn’t busy so I couldn’t figure out why someone wasn’t helping her.  Eventually she ended up close to me and I asked her what was wrong.  She was sick, had taken Nyquil the night before consequently sleeping late.  She arrived 45 minutes before her Canadian charter flight departure but no-one would help her.  I urged her to go back to the closest desks and ask someone to radio the charter representative.

Eventually I checked in and went to find her.  We were sent from pillar to post and I eventually demanded that we see a manager.  The flight had gone but at least the airline representative might be able to find the cheapest alternative to get her home.  She couldn’t call them on her Canadian phone.  I left her in chastened hands with the manager in route and the airline had been radioed.  Who knew all my Texan airport experience would have come in handy?

At my connecting airport in England, I tripped and scraped my knees despite being sober…then.  The only person who ran to my aid was one of the much maligned Eastern Europeans.  A Bulgarian cleaner who spoke very little English also helped.  On the glamorous flight back to Texas with flight attendants that resembled pretty butterflies, I had to complain about vomit blocking a sink and more dried vomit on the floor of a different toilet.  The response was a poor excuse and certainly not an abject apology which I expected.  It concerned me that they wore no aprons to serve food and inefficiently cleaned toilets throughout a 9 hour flight…and then the toilet tissue ran out.  Can you imagine my upcoming complaint form?

My words are my dragon and I wish I could burn my way through the hateful climate with live in.  I wish I could erase my memories of a sad abusive childhood.  I wish I could forgive.  I wish my self-loathing would cease.  I wish I felt more joy or even contentedness.  I wish I had a dragon.

 

Brunch

I was so fed up with sushi…

…that I thought I would wander into Kerry’s street and check out the lizards.  Found this delicious entree in the neighbors’ yard.

It put up a good fight.  I am 4 foot tall so it was a generous brunch.

Almost down the gullet…

Utterly delicious!

Don’t we all need a change in our brunch venue from time to time?  Especially when wearing our bright white feathers and a burnt orange beak.  I had just come back from grocery shopping when I spotted this great egret in the cul-de-sac.  Ran in to get my camera and voila!

Hope you are all enjoyed brunch on this beautiful sunny day in the sub tropics.  The egret normally lives at the containment pond at the end of our street.