The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Buffalo Versus Elk July 25, 2013

Before you get the wrong idea, this isn’t about some competition between fraternal lodges. It’s about a family dispute. All families have disagreements from time to time, but mine might be the only family who argues over an animal sighting that occurred on a family vacation roughly 30 years ago.

There are a number of memorable things about this particular vacation and the time leading up to it. A few days before we were to leave, I became ill. My symptoms were pretty nonspecific–fever, body aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Our family doctor said it was nothing to worry about and it would run its course, and if I was starting to feel a bit better before we were to leave, there was no need to delay our vacation. My condition had improved somewhat by day before we were to leave, and since the first couple of days of vacation didn’t involve anything taxing on my part (sitting in a back of a car, mostly), we decided the trip was a go. We would head for Yellowstone National Park the next day.

Early that morning, we awoke to thunder, wind, and the sound of the tornado warning siren. Groggily, we took shelter in the basement. As it turned out, there was no tornado. The siren tower had been hit by lightening, causing the siren to go off. Once we realized we were not in danger, we headed back upstairs, and as we did so, we heard popping noises coming from the freezer. “The soda,” my mom said, putting a hand to her forehead. In preparation for the trip, several cans of soda were put in the freezer to quickly chill, later to be placed in the cooler and loaded into the car with all our other vacation paraphernalia. Alas, the soda had been forgotten and allowed to freeze…and explode. After all that excitement, we got little sleep in the hours remaining before our departure, but, for better or worse, we hit the road and headed West. Vacation had officially started!

The first snafu was the flat tire. Now, a flat tire is not the end of the world. Back then, cars even had full-sized spare tires, so we didn’t even have to worry about extensive driving on a donut until the tire could be fixed. The bigger problem was that the spare was in the bottom of the back of our station wagon–underneath suitcases, coolers, and, it seemed, anything a family of four could possibly need for an extended road trip. We had to undo all of the expert packing in order to access to the spare tire and then pack it all back up again. When I say “we,” of course,I mean my parents, mainly my dad. As I recall, I sat in a blanket under a shade tree near the side of the road while most of this was happening.

I think it was the second day when I came down with a horrible ear ache and started to get itchy spots on my face. As a kid who liked to swim, I got ear aches pretty regularly, but they were painful. My parents found a doctor in the town where we happened to be and took me in. I was treated for the ear infection but received a slightly more concerning diagnosis that explained my previous malaise and the appearance of the rash: chicken pox.

Some families would have taken it this as a sign and turned back at that point, but for some reason, we pressed on. Although my case of chicken pox was fairly mild, I spent fairly large chunks of the next few days resting in motels and trying not to scratch. I didn’t completely miss out on Yellowstone, though. I was feeling better after a few days and I recall Old Faithful in particular, mainly because the timing was not as faithful as advertised, although it was impressive despite its tardiness. One night we stayed in cabin in the park, which brings me, at long last, to the origin of the title of this post.

A couple of years ago, while my parents were visiting my brother at his home in Boston, I had the following correspondence with him.

Bufftext1

I absolutely remember the buffalo. We had seen a number of buffalo in the park, and I recall that, at some point, we slid into a strange conversation about the possibility of buffalo putting on a production of Evita. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but I digress. The buffalo in question was just a stone’s throw outside our cabin, not that I would throw stones at buffalo. That would be mean and probably unwise. We should have at least taken pictures of it, though. I’m not sure why we didn’t. It would have avoided future controversy.

Anyhow, I considered the matter settled, but almost 2 years later my brother was again with my parents while I was absent, and I got another text.

Bufftext2

My father was still in buffalo denial, despite being outnumbered three to one! The next day, I woke up to find this video in my e-mail. So, it seemed that my dad was not only denying seeing the buffalo but claiming that the animal we had seen outside our cabin was an elk. Ah, the human memory is a strange thing. Now that scientists have apparently been able to implant false memories in the brains of mice, can we really be sure of any of our memories?

A few days later, my mom e-mailed us to say that, on a trip that she and my dad had taken out West the previous year, they had seen a big dinosaur figure along the side of the highway. My dad said it was a brontosaurus, whereas my mom insisted it was a T-rex. They passed it again on their way home that day.

Not a brontosaurus...or an elk for that matter

Not a brontosaurus…or an elk for that matter

Clearly, my father has trouble identifying, or at least remembering, animals, both living and extinct. As far as I’m concerned, the case is closed, but for some reason, I have a feeling that this will come up again and again, particularly if there is wine involved.

Advertisements
 

Excuses, Excuses May 31, 2013

Filed under: lists,Psychology,Writing — lizardesque @ 5:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

I cannot possibly write today. Here is a list of reasons why.

I had a rough day at work.

I know, I know. This one has been used a million and three times, but please, just hear me out. I write and edit for a living. I know what you’re thinking, but stop. This isn’t the kind of writing that most people dream about. My job does not consist of my sitting around waiting to be inspired or wondering what my characters are going to do next, at the same time stressing that I’ve already spent ninety percent of the advance from my publisher. No, my job is writing and editing somewhat dry, often obtuse pieces of medical literature. It’s a living, though. I bring home my decent paycheck, and now I am trying to use it as an excuse to get out of doing my other writing—the writing that really matters to me personally. You scoff, but you have to understand that sometimes when I have finished with work, the last thing I want to do is write more. No more paper. No more pens. No more tap tap on the keyboard. I know personal writing is different. I should feel invigorated by it, and many times I do, but there are just some nights when I don’t want to look at another written word. It’s like chicken cordon bleu. You may love chicken cordon bleu, but if you’ve had fried chicken for lunch every day for the last two weeks, you probably don’t want chicken cordon bleu for dinner. You may also want to get your cholesterol checked.

I am unable to write today as I am trapped under a cat

I cannot possibly write today as I am trapped under a cat.

I’m tired.

Boo-fucking-hoo, right? Who isn’t tired? I don’t even have children or a long commute, so why should I be so tired? I shouldn’t, and that is what worries me. I never thought I would feel so tired at this age. I’m not talking about a-little-sleepy-after-dinner sort of tired either. I’m talking about the kind of tired that makes you ache, the kind of tired where you can’t muster the energy to do things you love, like eat pie or have sex. I’m talking about being so tired that you can’t even sleep. It doesn’t make sense, and I think there may be something wrong with me. My iron levels are fine. My thyroid is dandy. I don’t have sleep apnea or any other malady that could be identified by hooking me up to a bunch of wires and telling me to have good night’s rest. Maybe I just need more coffee…or less coffee. It must be one of those.

 

I’m afraid.

It’s not the writing I am afraid of per se. It’s hard to pin down exactly where the fear comes from. Sometimes I’m afraid I have no talent, or not enough talent. Other times, I am afraid of failure. What if I finish my novel and no one wants to publish it? I’m also a little afraid of success. Yes, that sounds twisted and whiny, but say I write my novel and it gets published. What if it doesn’t sell? What if it gets bad reviews? Could I stand to see critics tear my life’s work to pieces! But what if it does sell? What if it gets fabulous reviews and flies off shelves and I sign a three-book deal only to find that all my ideas are dried up and I only had one novel in me. I’ll be humiliated, and I’ll have to go crawling back to the job I left when I got the book deal, but they’ll have already replaced me, and everywhere I go to look for a new job, all people will want to talk about is how my book was so great, and why don’t I write another one? But what if that doesn’t happen? What if I write a second book and a third and a fourth and I become rich and famous? Will the money change me? Will I become one of those snobby rich people who thinks she’s better than everyone else just because she has a little bit of cash? I don’t want to be that woman!

What’s that? You’re not buying it? I should just shut up and write? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

 

The Offenders May 22, 2013

Filed under: Psychology,Rants,Writing — lizardesque @ 7:42 am
Tags: , , , ,
Far from home

Far from home

People who do not return their shopping carts to corrals in store parking lots encapsulate everything that is wrong with the world. I’ve been silent long enough and feel I must speak out against those who leave their shopping cart beside their cars instead of taking them to the designated collection areas—selfish, lazy, and borderline sociopaths! Some might think I’m being harsh and that it’s not that big of a deal. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone has ever died or been seriously injured by a wayward cart. So, yes, there are worse offenses of selfish carelessness, but by refusing to return a cart to the corral, the Offenders allow us a glimpse into their rotten core. They are telling everyone that they cannot be bothered to abide by the rules of being a decent person.

The unreturned cart could dent someone’s car. It could inconvenience someone by blocking a parking space, causing her to have to look for another space or get out of her car (before parking, probably inconveniencing other would-be parkers in the process) and move the cart that was the Offender’s responsibility in the first place. Maybe that’s not the end of the world, but it could all be avoided if people would take 30 seconds to do their end-of-shopping duty.

I’ve heard all the excuses. Some of them aren’t even excuses. “I’ll admit it. I’m lazy,” a person whose name I will not divulge once said to me with a shrug and a please-don’t-hate-me look. No. I’m lazy. I know lazy. I can be so lazy that I groan and ignore dryer lint that falls inches short of the trash bin when I attempt to toss it in. This inconveniences no one. I’ll get to it later. The Offenders and their cart-abandoning habits are not simply lazy. They are rude, thoughtless, and reprehensible.

“Oh, but it was raining/snowing/windy/hot,” Offenders have whined throughout the ages. Guess what—people have brought carts to corrals under many sorts of inclement weather conditions and lived to tell about it. What’s more, the weather probably will still suck when someone else has to take care of the Offenders’ carts.

“Oh, but I had my kids with me and…” The Offender then goes on to describe how returning a shopping cart to the corral is an absolute physical impossibility when one is accompanied by children. Here, the Offender is not only lying but is also using his or her children as an excuse for being a despicable human being. After all, the Offender managed to get the kids into the car, take them to the store, and complete his or her shopping with the kids in tow. It is absolutely possible to return a cart to the corral without putting one’s children in mortal danger. I promise.

I call upon you, dear readers, to help me in my quest expose the Offenders! Do not put up with their excuses! Shine a light on their sociopathic tendencies! Shame them into good behavior!

And keep returning your carts, for the sake of all that is good in the world!

 

Just Be Happy! April 8, 2013

Filed under: Psychology,Rants,Writing — lizardesque @ 9:42 pm
Tags: , ,

“Maybe it’s time for you to consider treatment with an antidepressant.”

The words weren’t exactly a surprise to me, but they still made me cringe. Antidepressants were for two kinds of people: the lazy ones who took the easy road of popping a happy pill and ignoring whatever was wrong in their lives and the weak people who just couldn’t handle life. Either way, taking these pills represented some kind of character flaw, a moral failing even. I should be stronger. I should be able to cope. I shouldn’t curl up into a ball and cry when I get stressed about work or when I can’t find my other sock. If I needed antidepressants just to feel normal, I must be bad.

Weak.

Broken.

Useless.

Bullshit.

Too many people view the body and mind as two distinct entities, when they really aren’t. They’re irrevocably linked, if not one and the same. My brain is part of my body, after all. My brain does not make enough serotonin, and that makes me, at times, physically incapable of being happy. But there’s a treatment, and once I stopped listening to all the bullshit and took antidepressants, I felt like the person I had actually been all along finally got to come out.

Still, some might say I shouldn’t need these pills, that they are a crutch in the worst sense of the word. “Happiness is a choice,” the saying goes. I should just make myself be happy out of sheer will. Just be stronger. Just be more positive. Just be happy!

Just start making insulin.

Just stop releasing so much histamine when you encounter pollen.

Just build stronger tooth enamel.

Just stop refluxing acid into your esophagus.

Just stop breaking down cartilage in your knees.

Just stop growing tumor cells.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Originally published in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, April 2013

 

Passionate Aversions January 6, 2013

Things for which I have an incredibly vehement and possibly irrational dislike:

  • Cowboy boots and hats
  • Football, especially NFL football – I can make a number of rational arguments as to why I dislike football. I find it hard to respect a sport that has a season consisting of only 16 games and in which players do not play both offense and defense. People claim it’s action packed, but, to me, most of the “game” seems to be people standing around. Football minutes are like dog minutes–actually even longer. Gerbil minutes maybe. All that said, nothing really explains the magnitude of my dislike for the NFL. It’s not just that I don’t want to watch it. I’d really prefer if no one watched or at least if no one talked about it. At the very least, I would like an application that makes all football related Facebook posts appear on my news feed as pictures of kittens.
  • Flat-brimmed baseball caps – I want to bend them all. While I’m at it, I want to take all the damn stickers off too.
  • Armpit hair (on both sexes)
  • Unexpected stickiness – The need not to have sticky hands could be near the bottom of my own personal Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (or the revised version I have previously proposed). Not that there aren’t other reasons that I don’t have kids, but the stickiness alone could be enough to keep me from procreating. Why are kids always sticky?
  • French pedicures
  • Lladro and Precious Moments figurines
  • Dippin’ Dots ice cream – I’ve never even tried it, but it vaguely reminds me of Styrofoam and cottage cheese. I do not want ice cream to remind me of those things.
  • Golf shirts on women – In my nightmares, I’m forced to wear golf shirts, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots.

I’m interested to hear the irrational passionate dislikes of others, so feel free to share yours.

 

This Is Not a Passive-Aggressive Post January 31, 2012

Filed under: Psychology,Rants — lizardesque @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , ,

Odd things annoy me. It’s my own fault. I let them get to me. Then again, I have started to think of all of life’s little mishaps and annoyances as potential blog fodder, which I can hopefully use to amuse and entertain.

One of my odd annoyances came to the forefront of my mind last night while I was listening to the radio. A McDonald’s commercial played. In it, a woman asks a man what he wanted to do for dinner that evening. The man responded that he wanted fruit and oatmeal from McDonald’s. The woman got annoyed and said that she admitted she was wrong when she said that you could only get said oatmeal concoction during breakfast hours, and did he have to keep passive-aggressively throwing it in her face?

Now THAT is passivity

The writing in most advertisements makes me want to bang my head against something unyielding, and this was no exception. This commercial might not faze most people because, as I hear the term misused so often, it seems to me that most people do not know what passive-aggressive actually means. Many times when people say “passive-aggressive,” what they really mean is snide, manipulative, underhanded, or just plain douchey.  In fact, a lot of people might think that this post is passive-aggressive, that I’m actually trying to get the message about the misuse of passive-aggressive out to a specific person or people without confronting him/her/them directly. Nope. Even if I were secretly directing this post at someone or some people, it would not be passive-aggression. Passive-aggression is not simply being nonconfrontational. Passive-aggression is aggression through passivity (that is, not doing something).

For example, badmouthing a coworker you dislike but never directly confronting him/her about the issues between you is NOT passive-aggression. It’s not directly confrontational, but it’s not passive, and it’s not even particularly subtle. On the other hand, giving your husband the silent treatment because he did not take out the garbage is a form of passive-aggression. Here are a few other examples of what is and is not passive-aggression.

  • When one of my former housemates did not do her share of household chores, that could have been construed as passive-aggression on her part (although, in truth, I do believe it was just laziness and slovenliness). My other housemate and I placing the vacuum cleaner in the center of her bed was definitely not passive-aggression.
  • When I correct restaurant chalkboard signs that have errors in grammar and punctuation, this is not passive-aggression. If I avoid eating at establishments with errors on their signs in hopes that I will drive them out of business, that is passive-aggression.
  • “Forgetting” your deadline and not completing your project because you feel under-appreciated at work is passive-aggressive. Anonymously posting pictures of your boss on the Internet and labeling them “Chronic Bed-wetter” in large, red letters is not passive-aggressive.
  • None of these or these are passive-aggressive. I’m also pretty sure that no one posting on passiveaggressivenotes.com actually knows that passive-aggression is.
  • Not reading my blog because you think I can be a preachy know-it-all and don’t want to encourage that is passive-aggression. 🙂
 

Radical Vulnerability January 23, 2012

Untitled, Malachi Muncy

On Friday, went to an exhibit called “Radical Vulnerability” at the National Veteran’s Art Museum. What a powerful experience. A veteran of the Iraq war walked us through the exhibit, and we got to hear his thoughts and experiences. In addition to seeing some incredibly moving and gut-wrenching artwork, I learned some interesting but disturbing facts.

  • One third of service women are sexually assaulted by fellow service people.
  • The rate of suicide among veterans is currently higher than the rates of soldier death in any ongoing conflicts.
  • Unemployment rates for veterans are among the highest compared with other demographics–up to 30% for women and minorities.

    Untitled, Malachi Muncy

After the program was over, I talked to the veteran who gave us the exhibit tour. I had noticed he had a paper clip tattoo on the outside of his right hand, and I asked him about it. It’s a symbol of a movement called People Against People Ever Re-enlisting Civilian Life is Perfect. Indeed.

I want to write more about what I saw and felt, but I’m still trying to process it and turn into coherent statements. So, for now, I’ll share some photos.

The first two images are untitled works by Malachi Muncy. Both are prints on combat paper, which is made when a deconstructed military uniform is turned into pulp and made into paper. The first image shows an imprint of a uniform, and the second, a one-legged soldier.

The next series of images are from a work called “Fatigues Clothesline,” compiled by Regina Vasquez. Military uniform jackets are turned inside out and written and drawn upon to represent the feelings that victims of sexual assault carry inside them. The aim of this project is to help individuals move past Military Sexual Trauma by telling their story while educating the public at the same time.

They Are Mine to Keep, Edgar Gonzalez-Baeza

The next image is of a piece called “They Are Mine to Keep,” by Edgar Gonzalez-Baeza, which tackles the stigma of acknowledging the trauma of battle instead of “taking it like a man.” Instead of maintaining stoicism in the face of PTSD, Gonzalez-Baeza encourages individuals to embrace their fears and pain in order to begin to overcome them.

Next, are pictures of a piece called “Good Morning PTSD” by Christopher Arendt. Thousands of service people develop PTSD after their service. Although the military offers medications to veterans with this condition, little else is offered in the way of therapy or counseling.

Finally, here are two pictures of “Desert Angel” by Marcus Eriksen. Eriksen attempted to recreate the image of the first dead soldier he saw in Iraq. The resulting image is absolutely haunting.