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Ten Hours to Big Bugs and Other Stupid Things

I’m going to skip right past all the reasons for yet another lengthy hiatus from this blog and tell you a true tale of bugs and other stupid things—and perhaps harsh judgment on my part.

Yesterday I traveled to the Houston area with my husband to retrieve the RV he lives in while working out of town. His next job is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he’d left the RV in Houston to first make a quick trip home to Amarillo for a two-week reprieve. When I say reprieve, I mean the pause-in-which-you-work-your-tail-off-to-install-hardwood-floors-before-you-have-to-return-to-your-paying-job kind. But that’s another story.

We left Amarillo several hours later than planned due to sleep deprivation related to complications of said reprieve, so we arrived in Houston late last night, ready to crash.

Before I continue with my story, let’s talk nasty—as in bugs are nasty. Anyone familiar with the Houston area is likely also familiar with the giant cockroaches. People have cute names for them like “water bugs” and “palmetto bugs,” but I like to call them what they are: Spawn of Satan. I suspect our RV was more susceptible to the little monsters than usual in that our RV space was right next to a stream or canal or some such water source that also happened to be lined with trees. They say the big roaches are tree roaches, but I haven’t gotten (and probably won’t ever get) close enough to one to properly identify what kind of roaches we are dealing with. Do Satan’s minions really need specificity in labeling?

So, back to our arrival in Houston. Because I’d encountered those nasty little creatures a month or so before on a short trip to visit my hubby, I cautiously entered the RV, hyper-alert and on the lookout for them. Almost immediately I saw a dead one (the best kind) on the floor.

Tim had gone in a few minutes before me to tidy up while I gathered my things. (He hadn’t been expecting me to come back with him when he left, and might have been a little slack in his housekeeping efforts while working long hours with few days off.) I wondered if he’d just killed that bug or if it had been there since before he left Houston two weeks prior. I knew it wasn’t a natural death, because its body was squished and dismembered.

I started worrying out loud about the inevitability that before the night was over, we would experience Creepshow-like trauma at the hands of these terrifying mutant pests. Tim came out of the bathroom, and as he walked up behind me I saw a live bug (the worst kind) cruise out from under one of Tim’s ammo bags, heading for his recliner. I shouted and pointed supervised while Tim grabbed the nearest object—which, oddly enough, happened to be a drill—and pursued the enemy. He hurled magazines and tipped a table over, whacking away unsuccessfully at the despicable little intruder.

The bug scurried behind the recliner (which looks more like an upscale leather desk chair, but it reclines and has an ottoman). Tim jumped onto the recliner, knees first, facing the back, and as he hurled himself across the arm trying to reach the bug with deadly force, I heard KACHUNK! A bolt shot out from under the seat and Tim was propelled in the direction of the hand that was still swatting at the bug with the base of a drill.

If you’ve seen my husband, you’re probably already laughing. For those of you who haven’t met him, picture a 6’2” bear of a man engaging in this activity in the confined space of an RV living area. We have a pretty big RV, as far as RVs go, but it’s still a pretty small space for any kind of physical activity involving a man the size of my husband.

The urge to laugh and concern for the sacrificed chair was squelched by my need to know if he got the bug.

He did not.

I stepped forward and moved the ottoman out of range of Tim’s flailing feet as he recovered his footing, valiantly continuing his pursuit of the bug, even while sprawled out from the crash of the chair.

He finally landed a deadly blow to the bug just as I spotted a bigger, uglier bug—on MY FOOT! Creepier than the bug was the fact that I didn’t even feel it until I saw it perched arrogantly on my toe. My naked toe. The vicious predator had been hiding under the ottoman I’d just moved, waiting to attack.

I shrieked and yelled something about bugs and killing and I don’t know what all at my husband. By the time he turned around, the bug had gone underneath another footstool, to which I pointed while I continued screaming directives about killing it.

Tim moved the footstool and before he could kill the bug, it escaped under the couch. Exasperated, Tim made a couple of attempts to find it, then pronounced it gone.

I vehemently protested. A bug is not gone until it is dead—period.

It was then that I demanded requested that he either get some bug spray or get me a hotel room for the night. Preferably both. He agreed to the bug spray but regarded the hotel suggestion as ridiculous. His words didn’t say it, but his expression and tone did.

I reluctantly accepted my fate, but only because I don’t want to be a diva and I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily. To me, staying in an RV (think close quarters) after spotting three of these horrifying creatures within two minutes of arriving is what’s ridiculous, and I’m pretty sure I used words to make my opinion clear.

Tim promised he’d never seen one in the bedroom of the RV. I thought that was also ridiculous, and found no comfort in it.

Without further hesitation, we locked up the RV and headed for Walmart, the only place still open where we could buy weapons for the mass destruction of bugs. While there, we decided to grab a few other things we needed, like something for me to sleep in, because no way was I bringing my luggage in till all the bugs were annihilated. Call me paranoid, but I have a conspiracy theory regarding most bugs. I’m pretty sure they’re out to get me. I have a traumatized big toe to prove it.

Somewhere between the coffee creamer and women’s pajamas, we found a display sporting this:
Poo-Dough
Really? Who comes up with this stuff? I mean, it may make an adolescent boy laugh, or a person of any age or gender—for a moment. My question is, would anyone actually buy this stuff? I can see a few people here and there buying it for someone as a joke, but will it really be a big enough seller to warrant the cost of creating, marketing, and distributing it? Surely not.

Then we found these two items on either side of the same display:

 
Fart toys

 

fart toys

 

While these two aren’t quite as obnoxious as the Poo-Dough, I still don’t understand. We tested these two items and found them boring and lame. The few fart noises lacked variety and the laugh-inducing quality that a good fart noise should have. I have to admit, though, I can see these two items selling a little more successfully with some tweaking.

Testing them took me back to the days when home computers became commonplace. Not long after we got our first desktop computer, one of my kids discovered the Fart Machine. Anyone remember that little gem? It was basically an application that made every kind of fart noise imaginable, complete with hilariously descriptive names identifying the various fart species with surprisingly specific accuracy. My kids were fairly young then, and they found this to be very entertaining. I have to admit it made me laugh a few times. In my opinion, the iFart Shuffle and Fart Piano don’t measure up to the entertainment standards of the legendary Fart Machine—they are yawn worthy at best.

As we left Walmart armed with bug spray and other items necessary to survive the night amongst the soon-to-be-dead creepy crawlers, I pondered what life must like for someone who creates things like Poo-Dough and the iFart Shuffle. I mean, we all have crazy ideas from time to time, and might even have a good laugh over them. But it seems to me you’d have to have a lot of extra time on your hands to actually create and market something so silly and most likely unprofitable. It seems like a colossal waste of time, energy, and resources.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t see these items selling enough to cover the cost of putting them out there. Most people may pick them up and “test” them out of curiosity, like we did, but will put them back down when their curiosity is satisfied. No purchase necessary.

Bug spray, on the other hand, will surely always be a big seller. Because giant cockroaches are evil terrorists, and they are the exact opposite of funny.

Z is for Zoo

Z

 

It’s the last day of the A to Z Challenge for 2014. Zoo might seem like an obvious, lazy choice, especially since I used it for last year’s challenge, but I didn’t choose it because it’s easy. As I explained last year, we like to visit zoos we haven’t been to when we travel. Since my theme for this year’s challenge is about our anniversary trip to Nashville, it makes sense to include the Nashville Zoo. It might even be a good place to find some of those birds I mentioned in my last post.

Everyone knows what a zoo is, so it doesn’t need much explanation. In addition to the usual exhibits and animal shows, the Nashville Zoo has some pretty cool features for kids. I won’t dwell too much on those since we won’t be taking any kids on our anniversary trip.

One pretty cool thing at the Nashville Zoo is their Jungle Gym, which is the largest community-built playground in the United States. It is a 66,000 sq. ft. playground with a 35-foot tall “Tree of Life” tree house structure, a concrete sculpture garden, a dancing water fountain, cargo netting, super slides, and other fun things for kids.

They also have quite a few educational programs for kids, including photography classes and programs for home schoolers. They even have youth volunteer opportunities.

One thing I’m looking forward to seeing is the giraffe that was born in December of last year.

Bahati was born in the early morning hours of December 13, weighing 180 pounds (81.65 kg) and standing 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) tall. source

Bahati was born on December 13, weighing 180 pounds
and standing 6 feet 5 inches tall.
source

 

If we make the zoo part of our trip, I’m sure I’ll take hundreds of pictures. I always do. I’ll try not to post too many. :)

That’s it for the A to Z Challenge this year, but it’s just the beginning of our vacation planning. It will be fun to share our personal experiences and pictures from Nashville when we go.

Yearning for Yellow Bellies and Yellow Rumps

Y

 

Yearning for Yellow Bellies and Yellow Rumps—sounds a little weird, huh? It isn’t.

I’m a little late on my Y post for the A to Z Challenge. (It didn’t help that WordPress refused to load pictures into my post, making me a day later than I already was. Thanks, WordPress.) Before that, I hadn’t been able to find any attractions in Nashville that start with Y,  so I knew I’d have to get creative. Some days creativity doesn’t just show up and beg to flow through me.

While I was reading about Nashville hoping to get inspired, a funny thing happened: I got inspired. I stumbled across an article about birds in Tennessee. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but hang with me—there’s a reason I chose birds as my “Nashville attraction” Y.

My two youngest kids have been known to make fun of me for my love of birds. They say every outdoor excursion we take I’m constantly taking pictures of birds and flowers. I can’t deny it, but my fascination isn’t really limited to birds and flowers. I get excited over any kind of wildlife, even squirrels and other rodents. I have what some might think an embarrassing number of pictures of squirrels. I’m not ashamed. All animals, wild or tame, captivate me. I never plan to take hundreds of pictures of birds or any other creature. It’s an impulse that turns into a mission as soon as I start shooting.

If I could clone myself, one of me would be a wildlife photographer. I’d go to Africa and shoot lions and giraffes and such. The other clones would likely be jealous.

Given my affinity to photographing birds, it stands to reason that it will happen on vacation. Needing a Nashville attraction for Y, I looked up all the birds in the area hoping that some would have names that start with Y. From the Tennessee website for Watchable Wildlife, I discovered thirteen different birds that reside in Middle Tennessee and more specifically, Nashville. I eliminated two that are “casual” migrants, meaning they occur with some frequency but not every year.

That left me with eleven birds in the Nashville area that start with Y. Three of those will also be eliminated from our birds-to-photograph list. We are not likely to find them on our vacation because we will be in Nashville in a different season than the birds. This is where the yearning comes in.

I’m glad to knock my list down to eight, because I don’t want this post to be too long. However, I hate that two of the birds we won’t get to see have the two best names. They won’t be posing for us this summer, but I have to at least tell you their names.

The first is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. That name makes me smile. It sounds like it needs to be in an Orbit “Dirty Mouth” commercial. Remember those? The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker would fit right in with a doo-doo-head cootie queen, a lint licker, or a Stinky McStink-face, don’t you think?

The second bird with the cool name is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. That’s not quite as funny as the first one, but it’s at least as funny as a kumquat, which is from the same Orbit gum commercial. Even more fun is that birders affectionately call this warbler “Butter Butt.”

I really wish I could get pictures of these two birds just because I love their names. Weird, I know.

Because I can’t leave it out, the third bird eliminated because of timing issues is the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  If the name means what it implies, I’d like to have one at my home in the summertime. :)

Of the eight birds left that will be in Tennessee during the summer, there are two more I can eliminate from this post for the sake of brevity, which I failed about 550 words ago (sorry). I will still look for these birds, but it isn’t likely that I will find them, either because of their habits or their arrival time in the state. They are the Yellow-crowned Night Heron and the Lesser Yellowlegs.

That leaves us with six birds we stand a chance of seeing and photographing. Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife website has all kinds of information to arm myself with for the best chance at spotting these birds, but I won’t bore you with all that information. This post is already long, so I’ll to try be brief with the birds we will focus on finding.

I’ll start with the bird we are most likely to find. The Common Yellow Throat is one of the most abundant wood warblers nesting in Tennessee.  Although it is common, it can be hard to see because it typically stays low in thick, marshy or brushy vegetation. It does have distinctive markings and a distinctive call that make it easy to identify if found.

Common yellow throat male

Male Common Yellow Throat
source

Another bird that is pretty common to the area in the summer is the Yellow Warbler. It is the most yellow of all the warblers.

Yellow Warbler source

Yellow Warbler
source

The Yellow-throated Vireo is also common enough that our chances of sighting one are pretty good. It is the most colorful of all warblers, with a bright yellow wash over its head and breast and prominent yellow “spectacles” around its eyes. It is sometimes overlooked because it moves slowly in the highest layer of the trees and is a less persistent singer than some of the other vireos.

Yellow-throated Vireo source

Yellow-throated Vireo
source

The Yellow-throated Warbler arrives in Tennessee earlier in the spring than most other warblers. I’d love to get pictures of this beauty.

Yellow-throated Warbler source

Yellow-throated Warbler
source

The last two birds on my list are common to the area, but might take a little work to spot. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is not easily seen because of its habit of waiting motionless for long periods, watching for an insect or caterpillar. My zoom lens might help, or maybe we need binoculars.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Source

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Source

Last is the Yellow-breasted Chat. This little bird is often overlooked because it keeps itself well hidden in dense, brushy vegetation.

Yellow-breasted Chat source

Yellow-breasted Chat
source

These are the birds I’ll be looking for on our trip to Nashville. I’m anxious to see how many of the likely six I will get a shot of. I’m pretty persistent, so maybe I’ll even get all of the eight possibles. I’ll let you know how many I find. I’ll also let you know how many times Tim asks if we’re done yet. :)

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