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I am always astounded that I ended up living in a tourist city because while working at various shows I would harp on and on about “tourist time” and how, in general, humans in large numbers can aggravate the hell out me. I have the pedestrian version of road rage and can’t stand people who aren’t looking where they are going. This combination of issues isn’t a good thing to walk into a craft show with. Every time I leave the booth to use the restroom or search for food I come back with a grim look on my face and many a snide comment bouncing around in my head.

Also, when selling inspirational ornaments you can only have so many people ask you to draw a frog, snoopy, or Winnie the pooh before wanting to drop the smile and ask them if they are really just that stupid.

However, even with all of that drama going on - working at shows like these does something so wonderful to my heart that I keep coming back for more. Every once and a while you get a customer that makes you feel like what you do really means something to them. Sadly, more often then not, the more poignant ones are related to tragedy and thus the memorial ornaments.

Some of my more memorable moments:
  • This past show I had a mother who had been coming to the craft show for over five years with her ailing daughter. The daughter had been fighting cancer for several years and bought an ornament each year to signify her life and continued fight. She left all the ornaments out around her bedroom year round. This past June she passed away and while at the hospital told her mother that she wanted her to buy her a memorial ornament from us. The mother told me all this with glassy eyes and showed me a beautiful picture of her 25 year old daughter laughing. It is often harder for me to keep it together when the person I am talking to isn’t crying ... I know that sounds odd but sometimes that makes the pain more present on their face.
  • I had another woman come by who bought a memorial ornament for her father who had passed away 6 days earlier. While buying a stand for the ornament she shared with me about him and how close they had been. I asked if it was a surprise or had they been expecting it – she told me that it was a surprise. She then told me that in the past two years she lost both of her sons as well – one to cancer and another to a gunshot wound. She said that she now had no men left in her family and was depending on her faith in God to go on. I honestly didn’t know what to say to her ... how to comfort her. I had nothing in personal life experience (thankfully) to even slightly grasp what she must be going through.
  • One from my past that will always stay with me is a customer who called our business a couple of months after Christmas. Their father had bought ornament from us and personalized it to them. It was wrapped under the tree when he died in a car accident before Christmas. I don’t know what the ornament said to the daughter but it must have given them comfort – they kept it out next to their bed since opening it. The problem was that it had gotten broken and they desperately wanted it replaced. My mother sent them a personalized replacement and told me what happened. I was doubly shocked that something I did – and probably at the time gave no more thought to than making sure my lines were straight – meant so much to someone. I also was struck by the fact that this man passed through my life not too long before his ended. It is an eerie thing to have such a strong impact without being at all aware.
We sell a lot more engagement, just married, expecting, and babies first ornaments then any others (like the memorials) - so the stories aren't always depressing. Yet, I remember the other ones that I had to blink around my tears to do more. Sadly - joy can get generic after a point. I assume that many of the ornaments we sell will find a special place in a memory box or on a mantle ... and surely others will go straight to eBay.It is hard for me to wrap my head around but it is such an amazing thing to be a part of. Mom jokes that I have “gypsy blood” now because I have trouble walking away from all of it. I have to agree. I will honestly be sad if (or more likely when) I come to a point where it is no longer a part of my life.

For now I will enjoy it and take away the lessons that everyone has to teach me – through both their joy and pain.

As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to live it more and more

~ Jules Renard ~
Livejournal's question of the week: Are you happy at your current job? Do you think there's such a thing as a dream job? What do you hope to be doing five or ten years from now? Are you working towards that goal?

Contrary to how I behave at times - I love my job. I love working in a museum, I adore working with animals, and I feel privileged to work with the people that I do. I would never - I mean NEVER - have thought that I would ever move down to New Orleans. I still find myself astounded that I live here. Yet I think that it was a good move at the right time for me. In this economy I feel lucky to have a job - let alone a job in my particularly small field. I do wish I got paid enough to pay all my bills and put a little aside for recreation but that (hopefully) will come in time.

I don't plan on leaving in the foreseeable future ... but I don't rule anything out (remember what I thought about my even being here?). I am just going to let this path take me wherever I need to go. I hope there is more adventure in store for me ... as much as I consider myself someone who stays loyal to jobs until forced into a change I can't help but hope that something will come up. I already miss traveling. I really want to leave the country for a spell in the near future. I dream of dropping everything and getting a job in some remote research station in Africa but two things stop me: I don't really have any skill set that could get me a job there and, as much as I yearn for adventure, I need stability and the idea of leaving all professional safety nets behind me freaks me out. So there isn't any location that could shock me more in the next 5 or ten years (except maybe New York ... *shudder*).

My dream job would be where someone pays me to go out and travel from one exotic location to another. I suppose I would like to be a writer or reviewer of travel agencies and locations ... but for that to be possible I would have to have some aptitude with the written language. Unfortunately my biggest skills during school fell in math ... and I didn't even have the fortitude to pursue that for long.

As for goals ... well I am just trying to learn to be happy in the moment. My plans never pan out so I might as well enjoy the ride and pursue as many side trips as possible. I do have a few things I would like to make happen but I hesitate to make them goals because I don't like looking at anything as a failure. Even when nothing turns out the way I expect I don't want to be unhappy with it - I simply want to embrace it and find the joy in the moment. For example, I would have thought you crazy if you told me ten years ago that I wouldn't be a professor at an NC university but rather working as a manager at a bug museum in New Orleans ... but I am loving it and that is all that matters!

I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.

~ William Allen White ~

Fan-tabulous "weekend"!

So this week Tuesday and Wednesday were my "weekend".

Yesterday ... wouldn't be what a normal person would classify as "fan-tabulous". It was my official day of doctors. I decided that now since I am covered by insurance I officially have no excuse for not having a "primary physician". I have had ear and eye doctors and even was on a nearly first name basis with a clinic for a while (ah, gall bladder - how I don't miss you!) but I have never gone to the doctor when nothing was wrong with me.

First, I went to the general doctor. I can say with pride and a smile that I didn't handle it well. She was a great lady and I am thrilled with her but I was abnormally nervous and didn't enjoy the procedures that took place. I had to get the "girl" stuff done and that led to uncomfortable conversations about my past. She was really patient with me and I am sure it is already one of those things that I am looking back at and laughing about but at the time I was certainly not laughing. She is also sending my blood through a crap-ton of tests to make sure everything is alright. There is a metabolic disorder that she thinks I have that would explain my trouble with acne and my issues with weight ... personally I would love it if a pill solved all those problems but I am of the opinion that it is simply a matter of changing my habits.

My doctor suggested that I see a dermatologist as soon as possible because of my family history of skin cancer and personal history of burns and uber sensitive skin. I was lucky enough that there was a cancellation later that day with a doctor in the same building so I almost went directly there. I told them about my extremely mild eczema, slight fear of skin cancer, and frustrating issues with acne. They were really sweet and the doctor told me the really big long name for the eczema that she thinks I have (but didn't give me anything for it ... something I hope to remedy in the near future). The acne conversation was really interesting - she brought up the same metabolic disorder and said that she wanted the results that Dr. Godbey got. Also, she gave me some lotion and an antibiotic that she is hoping will help clear me up. I am also planning on talking with her about isolaz in the future.

I can't say that Tuesday was fun ... but I am utterly relieved to have it behind me and LOVE the fact that I got it all done and put things into motion! I admit I felt totally and completely violated because I am not the type of person that likes to be touched by people I know well, while fully clothed ... so the things doctors do is well out of my comfort zone. However, the logical science major in me knows the value of information and is content.

Today - was the complete opposite. I only went out to get the mail. The rest of the day was spent cleaning and reading. I got my downstairs all tidy and put a big dent in organizing my library in my bedroom. There is something about a clean house that makes me feel so very much better inside. I am also really enjoying a new author, Jocelynn Drake, and finished the first book in her new series Nightwalker (Dark Days, #1). So today was a VERY good day!

Overall, I accomplished more than I would have dreamed the last couple of days (including a lot of slackish reading) and I am ready to go back and tackle work! That should be what weekends are about!

I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.

~ Edgar A. Shoaff ~

Also - I haven't shared a song in a long time. I really thought this one was cute and I could see it making Elizabeth smile considering the mood she has been in lately so here you go --Perfectly Perfect by Elizabeth & The Catapult ...... ENJOY!

When did this happen?

Less than six months ago I didn't own a single tarantula ... now I own eleven. Ann Van, a coworker of mine, said that I was like a cat lady - only creepier (though she now owns a chilean rose hair named "Willie G").

My first introduction into tarantula ownership came as a bit of a rush. I had gone home to visit Bill and my other friends in Raleigh and while there asked if I could have some of the curly hairs we had been raising before I left. I took three just in case I happened to get a male. Then Andy offered me some salmon pink babies that he had just gotten - I took six of those but gave three to the IRF to raise for the Insectarium. So almost directly after my 29th birthday I was the proud owner of six tarantulas.

Then in July I went to the SASI convention in Arizona and collected lots of creepy crawlies (which is why I also own a scorpion and centipede as a pet also). While there I found a dead tarantula at a rest area and figured I would take it home to pin it out as a souvenir. A curator at the convention found out I had it and asked if he could take it for research - I figured that research trumps personal collection so I told him he could have it. In a show of gratitude he gave me two baby Sun Tigers ... that took me to eight.

At the end of the SASI convention there was an auction that included a gift certificate to krazy8sinvertebrates.com. I went ahead and bid about half the gift certificates worth during the last few minutes of the auction and - surprise! - won. I decided to order a small collection from his website and also invited several coworkers to tack on their own orders to save on shipping. I ended up getting a Chilean rose hair, Brazilian black, and Chaco gold knee. Thus I am eleven!

What is even more special is that after all of this I still want a couple more. In particular I really want an Usambara baboon. They are supposedly very hard to kill, pretty, and mean as hell. The nickname in the trade for them is OBT (orange bitey thing). I realize that I would never try to hold or interact with it but I have been told that they have strong personalities and interesting behaviors.

Upon receiving the most recent additions to my menagerie I have gone on a mission to name all of my pets because it seems wrong to have so many and no way to refer to them as individuals.
Over the past few days I have come up with these but they aren't set in stone yet (I have also added links to pictures that show what they should look like when they are adults):

The three Honduran curly hairs:
    These little ones already have distinct personalities. Two are aggressive eaters - one of which is getting large very fast (likely a male). While the last generally doesn't eat right away and won't take on big meals. These are the names I chose for them:
  • Harley - for the big one who is likely a male. It means "rocky meadow" but I originally picked it out a long while ago for no particular reason. I would change it but I have been referring to this individual by that name for months now and it seems wrong to change it up.
  • Aerona - the name of a Celtic goddess of war and death who was portrayed as a masculine figure in Welsh mythology. It means "carnage" or "slaughter." This is for the other, smaller individual who is such an aggressive eater.
  • Pandora - every one knows the history behind this name. It just seems to fit the smaller more timid little girl.
The three Salmon pink tarantulas:
    These girls are great eaters and just as cute as little buttons. They grow to be contenders for the biggest tarantulas (their species is the second or third largest with leg spans over 8 inches). Right now though they are living off of crickets that I am killing for them and are small enough to fit on a quarter. For their names I am considering the Furies (or Erinýes) from mythology. They are referred to in the Iliad as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath." There are three that are given names in the Iliad and so I chose them for my little triplets:
  • Megaira - meaning "grudge"
  • Alecto - meaning "unceasing"
  • Tisiphone - meaning "murder-retribution"
The two Venezuelan suntigers:
    These two are the cutest little things right now. I don't see myself handling them much when they get bigger - they are famous for being unpredictable in temperament and I don't really want to hurt them nor get hurt myself.
  • Khan - Becky (the person who got me really interested in tarantulas in the first place) wanted a tiger before she had to leave and move to Colorado. She said that if she had one she would name it Shere Khan and thus I named one in her honor. I am just calling it Khan though because it fits better with its sibling's name that way.
  • Kissa - it means "sister of twins" and I thought it was perfect. Of the two I am naming the more timid one this.
The Chilean rose hair:
    It was our Chilean rose hair named Harriet that won me over for the eight legged kind. When I worked at my previous museum I never really handled any of them (mostly because ours were wild caught, flighty, bitey, and aggressive) but I took a leap of faith when working presentations here. Harriet will take away any reservations that you might have because she is perhaps one of the most relaxed and laziest arachnids I have ever encountered. She has a habit of falling asleep when I am holding her which either results in her drooling on me (yep - they drool) or, if she chose to sit on my arm, she will start to slowly slide off in a comical manner until waking and walking back to a level spot to perch. How could I be intimidated? So now I have my very own to raise from a babe. All that being said you can likely understand that I wasn't going to pick out a name that meant "carnage" or "killer" for her. I decided to call her Arrosa which is a Basque name meaning "rose." Hopefully she will be as sweet as Harriet once she is full grown.
The Brazilian black:
    We supposedly own one of these glorious animals at the IRF but I have never seen it. They are said to be a "perfect pet" tarantula because they are docile, active, and beautiful. When I opened the container that mine had been shipped in they shot out and ran across my hand, falling into the container I had prepared. Thus she was named Spaz ...
The Chaco golden knee:
    This beautiful little girl was the oldest of the three that I just bought. She is supposed to get rather large but stay very docile. I fell in love the moment I saw her! We named her Tidbit. I say "we" because it was a unanimous decision of the staff involved. Apparently while I was off on Thursday or Friday my package containing the spiders came in. The guards at base called for me over the radio but grossly mispronounced my last name - asking for "Lauren Tidbit". Ann Van made an executive decision and declared that "Tidbit" was officially my new nickname. We both decided that it made a great name for a tarantula if, for no other reason, to commemorate the event.

So yes - I am a tarantula collector now. I already am making plans on buying more after Christmas (I know enough to step back and take a moment before getting in over my head). However, I promise not to turn into one of those people that converts their garage into a pet room with racks of snakes, spiders, and scorpions ... I think I will stick to a walk in closet or, at most, a guest room. *grin*

There is everything in a name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would not cost half as much during the winter months.

~ George Ade ~
Yesterday that magnanimous JohnLee, plant specialist extraordinaire, took me on a little walk surrounding the Insectarium to ID several of the trees in the area so that I would know what we had when making decisions about what caterpillars we could feed (we have a rule that the person who brings an animal in - or accepts a donation - has to provide food for the animal). A local offered to donate a Polyphemus moth which was laying eggs and since I told them yes the onus was on me for finding fodder.

As JohnLee walked me around I realized how very much of my tuition for my "local flora" class was so utterly wasted. I am utterly inept when it comes to plants. I told JohnLee that I always confused oak and elm and his face froze in a moment and I remember when a friend asked me what kinds of plants mantids ate and I think I made a similar pose. I then explained that though I realized the trees looked nothing alike - I think it is the fact that they are three letter words that does me in. Oddly, I don't this made me sound any more intelligent. What color is the state of Australia again?


I really thought I would no more at this point in my life.

Never try to tell everything you know. It may take to short a time.

~ Norman Ford ~
Today is a day to celebrate punctuation! Something that is increasingly ignored in today's society unless we are building an emoticon.

But really - who can't love a holiday that has its own superhero and official meatloaf recipe?

Wierd Science ...

I was reading one of my favorite blogs (Zooillogix) and saw a really interesting article about scientists learning how to "control" the flight of moths.

While attempting to design "insect inspired micro aircraft" some scientists decided to look at insects themselves and see if, instead, they could simply control their flight patterns.

Scientists Aram J. Chung and David Erickson implanted Tobacco hornworm pupae with microfluid devices. The devices inject the moths with different kinds of venom (insect, spider, and synthetic insecticides). They found that they could affect the metabolisms of insects by injecting them with various amounts of different venoms. By controlling the metabolism they could control the speed at which they flapped their wings - thus if they only affected one side of the animal they could direct it into turns and effectively "drive" the animal wherever they wanted.

Insane. These were the sorts of experiments that we learned about in my biological clocks class that broke me from any ideas that I wanted to work in a lab. Though I have to admit I find it fascinating to read about.

I must agree with the writers at zooillogix that concluded their post with the following:

    Chung and Erickson then designed a new microfluid device, one that injected themselves with large amounts of alcohol in order to erase the memories and feelings of immorality associated with outfitting larval creatures with devices that inject them with different kinds of venom. It's a vicious cycle, really.

*snicker* Yep ... that is why I read their blog.

Must stop using the word "enhance" ...

Today I had another committee meeting with the group gathered for "audience experience" and I have to make the confession that I had fun. We accomplished something - decisions were made - progress was had!!!

It was kind of depressing to return from that to watching the butterfly house and basically sitting on my hands. Don't get me wrong - I love my job and there is fun to be had working the floor but ... there are times I miss the accomplishment of making decisions and organizing something. I think this was the reason that my first major was math (sick I know). I got an honest to God high when completing a complicated math problem. There is something enjoyable about planning something out - even if it is just on paper and is going to never come to fruition. Still ... there is a solidity and tangibility to it.

One of the hard parts about working with the public in the fashion that is presented at the museum is that you never see if your work had an impact. When teaching a class you are able to watch students grow or fail - good or bad there is something to show for your work - a measurable effect. With the general public it can be frustrating and easy to burn out on because you never get that completion.

I kind of miss the high. The sad part is that at this museum I don't even have the filler of raising insects. The "IRF" does all the major husbandry and there isn't room for the special interest projects I used to fiddle with while at my old museum. *sigh*

Well for now I will get my fix from the next few meetings of this committee. Who knows - our committee is calling for the creation of other more permanent committees ... maybe I will end up on one of those and I will be able to continue this sort of work on the side. I know many at work think I am insane (or simply naive) for enjoying this but I can't help it (yet).

I don't insist on total happiness all at once
I'll Agree to accept it in regular installments.

~ Ashleigh Brilliant ~

Today ...

Today was a great day - I finished a book (A Fistful of Charms), bought three more (A Few Demons More, Hunting Ground, and Spook), made mashed potatoes (which I had been jonesing for), got a call from Elizabeth (who just returned from her honeymoon and thus I wasn't bothering), and went to see a movie with a friend (9 ... it wasn't that great but the company made up for it).

All around a fantastic day off. Tomorrow I get to return to all the drama and strife but at least I will be recharged!

The scourge of leaf cutter ants ...

I have a serious love-hate relationship with out leaf cutter ants. Normally I find their entire colony workings utterly intriguing and I am constantly astounded by what they are able to accomplish by working together.

Yet, today was one of those hate days.

I got a call early this morning telling me that our ants were misbehaving. I went in and one of the tubes on the back of the exhibit had fallen off so there was a quarter size hole for all the ants to frolic on through. The back of the exhibit is pretty well contained so the vast majority of the ants that came out were in the work area ... but they weren't to happy with being manhandled back towards their home. These girls can't sting to communicate their displeasure but they have a nasty pair of jaws that can leave quite the imprint. They also don't just bite anywhere but more often then not look for joints or soft points so they can get the most reaction from their ire.

It took about 3 hours but we got the vast majority of the delinquents back into the foraging area. By the end of it I had to go to the bathroom twice because I (literally) had ants in my pants. I was pulling them out of my hair for a few hours after leaving the exhibit. I admit it is times like these that you have to sit back and laugh because if you don't have a sense of humor about it than you are going to have a *VERY* bad day.

Yep ... tomorrow the ants don't get any treats from me! No orange peal - they are only getting tallo until they learn to behave again. :)