Friday, January 24, 2014

Goldfish: Past and Present

I had goldfish as a little girl.  I remember when my Dad took me to Kmart and bought me a 10-gallon aquarium. He let me pick which rocks I wanted (azure blue) and which statue I wanted (a magenta and purple grotto) and finally which fish.  Out of the tank of 89-centers I picked my fave.  And named him Goldy.
When Goldy died, I got Goldy 2.
Followed by Goldy 3.
And then Goldy 4.
And the suffixed numbers in their name were pronounced.  If someone asked my fish's name I would tell them, "Goldy Three." 
After Goldy 4 my next fish was Neptune.  He was also a goldfish.  Maybe it was a break of the Goldy Curse but I had Neptune so long and he go so big I called and donated him to the Pittsburgh Zoo.  He needed a bigger habitat than I could provide.  As an adult, this story seems far-fetched.  I was 10.  I had a goldfish I thought was outgrowing it's aquarium so I called the zoo.  And with my altruistic heart, donated my .89 cent fish to the zoo.  What a philanthropist!

When we moved back to Idaho Falls, this past Thanksgiving, I took the boys over to see my neighbor Lee.  He and his wife are also from da Burgh and live right behind us.  In his basement he had 3 huge 'UGE aquariums.  The big 55 gallon monsters.  The boys were mezza-merized.   The next day Lee called and said he was gonna give the boys one of his aquariums for Christmas if I was okay with it.  Psht.  Hell Yeah!  Lee kept his fish and we got one gorgeous tank.  In time (after the proper bacteria had accumulated) we got three little fish of our own.  I named mine Ari Gold, Ken named him Gilligan, and Kole was at a loss on what to name his.  I started naming some names he liked; "Gordon," "Thomas," "Scotty," "Koley," "Charlie," "Tony,"
At which point Kole yelled, "Yeah!  PONY!"
So Tony became Pony and we had our fish named.
Now little Pony had some birth defects.  He looked like a hunchback goldfish.  His poor fin was stunted and he looked like he'd been picked on a lot.  I felt bad for Pony.  There goes that over-sized heart again.  I did my best to treat Pony well...nay.  I did my best to treat Pony way better than the other fish.
Which, I mean, is hard to do with fish.
But I'd put in extra food in where he was swimming and... well... that's it.
Come on.  What other ways are there?
I did always tell Kole and Joey to be nice to him and not talk about his funny fin.
He was our fish. And we were happy to have him. And we loved him no matter what.
I really felt good to have Pony safe in our tank.
Where no other fish could pick on him.
Or call him mean Fish Names behind his dorsal.  Or post rumors on their Fish Facebook pages.  Or unkindly mimic his crooked swimming.
He was safe from all the bullying in my tank.  Under my aquatic maternal wing.
Things were calm under the water.
But then one day, at dinner time, I noticed Pony chasing Ari and Gil away from the food.  He'd just swim real fast by them and kinda surprise them so they'd swim away.
I was shocked!
"Pony!  Be nice to them!"
Which probably sounded like "OOOnnnnnnN!  Ooouu gauoouuu mmmm!"
You know.  *clears throat* Under water sounds weird.
I tapped on the glass by him as a warning.  You know.  I'm in charge, Pony.  You listen up!
Needless to say my disciplining had no effect WHATsoever!
Pony just kept pestering the other fish. And not just at breakfast and dinner.  He was bullying them for pleasure.
 The drilling is Ken working on our shelving- but it kinda fits the scene.  Does it not?
When I discussed the issue with Ken- he was completely flippant.
"They're fish, babe."
"Yes.  They are.  And one fish is mistreating the other fish."
He didn't seem all too bothered by it.  Where's your heart, man!

I stayed up thinking about Pony:
He was probably bullied at some point in his life.
He looks weird.  He swims funny.  I bet he's been made fun of.
He's probably had a hard time making friends.  He's just passing it on.  He doesn't know any better.  This is how bullies are.
Maybe he comes from a single-parent home.  Maybe he's missed out on loving relationships.
Maybe he's suffering from depression or anxiety.  Maybe he misses the big tank at the pet store.
Maybe he views himself negatively and just needs steady positive reinforcement.

At this point I started dreaming up my business cards:
Patty Poulsen, PhD
Fish Psychologist

For 3 days I watched Pony bully my other two fish.
I watched Ari and Gilligan try to make themselves shrink and swim in smaller and smaller circles.
No amount of glass tapping and above-to-underwater scolding was reaching this dang fish!
One morning.  I woke up.  And Gil and Ari were hiding in the plant while Pony swam circles around them occasionally nosediving at them.
That was it!  I could justify his behavior...NO MORE!
I got a Mason jar.  Filled it up.  And scooped Pony into it.
"You're in Solitary Confinement today, Mister!  That's right The SHU!  Get used to it, Meanie!"

My next step was obvious.
Call the pet store.
They told me their policy for aquatic animals was 14 days for full refund.
So, after the kids went to bed, and after a full day in The Box for Pony I toted him back to Petco.
Their first question after realizing he wasn't dead was "Is he sick?"
I explained he was perfectly healthy and that he was just mean.
The two men just stared at me.
"What?," I said.
"You are returning him... because... he's mean?"
"Yeah." (I was not getting their surprise.)  "He's a bully.  And he's terrorizing my other fish and I don't want him in my aquarium.  He's too mean."
They just kept staring at me.  Mouths a-dropped.
So I continued, "Your return policy stipulates 14 days.  I'm under that mark.  I no longer want this aggressive fish.  I am returning him.  I have my receipt."
At which time I handed over Pony.  In the jar.  With my receipt.
And you bet your butt I got my dollar sixty-five back. Psht.  I also told the pet store people they should let prospective buyers know about Pony's past.  But I think they quit listening after they handed me my change and dumped Pony back in the tank with 35 other one-inch goldfish.

A few days later, after Ari and Gil felt comfortable swimming in the open water again we got 3 more fish to complete our aquarium.

And, thank heaven, they all seem to be getting along swimmingly.


Gilligan (Gil)


Ari Gold

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NewMe Zoomi

Last night, I dyed my hair red.  I'd like to say it's reddish brown but it's more like brownish red.  And, may I add...
I'm a scorcher, babe.
*Back of hand cupped by mouth* The new push-up bra adds to the effect.
Instant boob job.
Fraction of a fraction of the cost. 
But tis' the new hair color that has me feeling young and free.

So free, in fact, I painted my nails hot pink.  Takealookatthat!

I played tricks on Kole and Joey.
I popped out and scared them every chance I could.
I turned the music up.
I turned the bass up.
I put some lip gloss on.
I danced my big ol' mom butt around the house. (to the tune of Welcome to Atlanta Remix)
I tried to get the kids to follow me.
It kinda worked.  Guess they don't love Jermaine Dupri as much as I do.
We had an inside picnic and played a new version of Candy Land.
Which, P.S.,  if Kole named it would be called "Cheat Cheat Cheat and Make The Game Last A Long Long Time."
We took a walk.
And decided to have mini races.  Probably 45 mini races to get around our block?  45?.... maybe 60?
When we got home- I said, "Let's go again!"

It felt good to breathe and be me and be 29.

I used to think I had to keep that gray in there.
Make it a part of myself.
You know, She's young and perfect with this striking gray hair.
The young and perfect apply but the striking gray hair... looked more like kinked up tinsel.
Nothing young about that.
Red is it for me right now.
So sexy.
And- as we all know- "Sexy" and "Patty" are synonymous.

Try a new color to shake off the winter doldrums.
Works.  *wink* Like a charm.
The shade of hot pink nail polish, however, is a little too "trying too hard."
It's gotta go.

Picture on the way...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bid Thine Heart All Strife To Cease

Vanetta was one of the things I was most looking forward to about coming back.
She was the woman I so wanted to be.

She was good at literally everything.

Her and I went to a shotgun shooting class.
I had never seen a gun in real life before that day.
On the way over I shared that with her and she assured me:
We're both going to learn.
We got there and Vanetta opened her trunk and took out two guns.
Her own- that her Dad made for her.
And one for me.
Through our lessons that day we each shot 50 clay pigeons.
I hit 6 that day.
Vanetta hit 48.

The summer I was 25 we went fishing every Saturday.
We just did.
I went with her and Paul and Kent.
Even when Ken was working.
We had taught ourselves to fly fish.
And were so proud to be "purists."
Like Kent.
Kent and Paul had waded out to their chests and were casting and casting and casting.
It was so hot.
Especially in waders.
I looked over and saw Vanetta heading towards shallower waters.
I followed her and we set our rods in the boat and then
We sat in the water.
And cooled ourselves.
We looked at the rocks.
And the snails.
And ran our fingers through the water.
And she said:
Isn't it amazing that God made this for us today?

We were Visiting Teaching partners.
Our deal was she would call and set up the appointments and I would give the lesson.
She was such a natural talking to people.
Relating to people.
Once we were supposed to meet with a lady who wasn't active in the church.
When we got there the lady wasn't home so Vanetta asked her husband if we could meet with him!
We stayed for an hour and a half.
Just chatting.
Then she had me give my lesson.
After we'd leave each house she would tell me what a natural teacher I was.
She'd tell me how good I was at talking to people.
How I could relate to them in ways she couldn't.
I never saw that in me.

When I found out I had a brain tumor and told Vanetta about it she was dead set on zoning it out of me.
She gave me foot zones three times a week.
She brought oils over.
And gave me gross drinks to drink.
Like Living Thyme.  And Kombucha.
She'd rub my feet and speak so optimistically about my future.
She'd tell me how smart she thought I was.
And how strong she thought I was.
She'd tell me what beautiful babies she'd thought I would have one day.
She never believed my tumor would cause infertility.
Like my doctors said it would.
Like I believed it was.
She'd smile and her cheeks would go clear up.
And her eyes would sparkle like a thousand Christmas stars.
And she'd say:
You're gonna be a great Mom some day.

And I got pregnant.
And, I think, Vanetta always kinda' counted Kole as hers a little bit.
She was responsible for that baby getting to me.
She gave me teas for morning sickness.
She brought different oils.
And kept on zoning.
She brought clothes for the baby and slippers and books.
And a few weeks before the baby came... she threw me an outrageous baby shower.
She cleared all the furniture out of her house to accommodate. 
I remember she put peas in her chicken salad that day.
That day she always had her hand on my back or around my shoulders.
A few times she held my hand.  And patted it.
When the clean up was done and I was still eating cake she said:
We did it.
And something then, and now, made me think she was talking about more than putting chairs away.
And I wish I still had one of those little bottles of oil to smell.
I'd just sit.
And smell it.

When I went to the hospital at 4 in the morning...we called our parents.
And then called Vanetta.
She was the first person to hold him.
I can't believe I don't have a picture of that.
Maybe Kent does.
I'd like one.

Vanetta was gracious and lovely.
She had a naivete that I longed to possess.
She never said anything mean.  Ever.
She never even said, "I really shouldn't say this but,"...
She had class.
The old kind.

She thought Kent looked like Nicholas Cage.
She snorted when she laughed.
She sang alto.
I was always her partner in Pinochle.
I never led the round.
I'd tease myself that at least I was a good supporter.
She'd say:
You're good at everything.

I love how she smelled.
Earthy and natural with something... extra.  Something spicy.
I loved her hair.
Especially when her gray was coming in.
Because mine is the same way.
I loved all the bright colors she'd wear to church.
And how she'd tuck her shirts in even when she was dressed casually.
I love that she thought I was tall.
And pretty.
And smart.
And good at things.

She came and saw me the first day we moved to Farmington.
And I just...
thought she'd come see me on our first days back in Idaho Falls.

Vanetta was calm.
And calming.
She had things figured out.
She helped everyone.
This effect she had on me... making me feel like her own...
Everyone feels this same way about her.
How did she do that?

For nearly a week I've been thinking:
Now there is this void.
And no one can fill it.
No one is like her.

No one is.
And, at first, that made me mad.

And then today I thought:
I can still try to be.
That was my unspoken goal anyhow.
I can still give.
Give love.

And hope.
Just give.
With all my heart.

I think maybe that was her secret.