I am a sports bra girl. I wear them all the time -- sometimes even for days-straight when I'm on a bike trip. Fulfilling their definition, sports bras make it appear as though I have a single, compact boob. I own a regular bra, which I only wear with the one dress I own. Both the bra and the dress hardly ever see the light of day (or the dark of night, for that matter). Yes, for me, it's always a sports bra.
The heat here in Florida is sweltering. A few days into my housesit, I broke down and bought a tank top. The top happens to have a built-in bra -- one that actually separates and lifts my boobs rather than combines and compresses them. Heavens to Betsy! For the first time in years, I have cleavage!
|Ladies and gentleman, I have cleavage.|
It's been an interesting experience looking at myself in the mirror. I can't help but to stare -- wow, those boobies are mine!
This housesit has made me realize that I quite possibly am a crazy cat lady, by proxy, at least. I love when the five kitties lounge together in the same room. There are kitty bellies, and kitty paws, and kitty tails absolutely everywhere you look! And I love seeing the clowder of cats gather together in the kitchen at supper time -- five kitties meowing incessantly and five kitties rubbing their furry bodies against my legs. It makes my heart melt.
|I love seeing five kitty butts at dinner time.|
The gray kitty is Christa. I call her Christa Belle. She has refined tastes; she doesn't care for salmon or mixed grill flavors.
|Christa, doing her cat walk.|
Christa crawls into my lap every afternoon. The tighter I hold her, the louder she purrs. Though I don't play favorites (yes I do, and she's my favorite), here's a second photo of sweet little Christa Belle:
And then there is Snuggles, who doesn't care much for Christa. Snuggles, not surprisingly, likes to snuggle with me. If a moment goes by when my hands aren't petting Snuggles, he'll reposition his body so that it is right underneath my fingertips.
|Snuggles. (And essentially Snoopy, too, if you were to tag his left ear.)|
Snuggles has a brother, whose name is Snoopy. On top of being skiddish, Snoopy is deathly afraid of cameras. Hence, I have no separate photo of Snoopy. For all intents and purposes, Snoopy looks just like Snuggles (they are from the same litter), except that his left ear is tagged.
This is the first time I've housesat for kitties with tagged ears. For those who don't know, a tagged ear is one in which the tip of the ear is cut off. Being curious, I researched the meaning behind tagged ears.
Since the only way to determine whether a cat has been fixed is to look for a scar, many vets believe it's best to have a more easily viewable indicator as to whether or not a wild cat can reproduce. Tagging is a way of indicating that feral cats have been fixed. Though tagging is not a practice that has been universally adopted, it is not uncommon to see entire communities of tagged cats in certain locales.
I wonder if it might be a good idea to tag humans, too. Men and women who have been fixed would have severed left ear lobes. It sure would make choosing appropriate mates at a singles bar a heck of a lot easier!
This little kitty is named Butterscotch. When the homeowners found her, she had just given birth to four kittens (two of which are Snuggles and Snoopy). When she was found, she had lost most of her fur -- poor mama! It's clear from her behavior nowadays that she wants nothing to do with her two sons.
And this beast is named Tiger, though I affectionately call him Timmy the Tank.
|Tiger (aka Timmy the Tank).|
Timmy the Tank is the biggest tiger I've ever seen. He's like a walking brick. Nah, on second thought, he's more like a big-ass cinder block, propped-up precariously on four toothpick-sized legs. But, my oh my, he's a sweetie (unless it comes to food, in which case he's both a piggy and a bully). Timmy loves nothing more than to be brushed. And I love nothing more than to brush Timmy, primarily because I'm astonished at just how much fur comes off that cat.
I'll often walk around the corner to find Snoopy embraced within Tiger's arms. Each time I come across these two, Tiger is giving Snoopy a good licking. I just can't help but to feel as though I've walked in on a very intimate act. I find myself blushing, and so I walk in the other direction. Have at it, guys!
And then there's Hank. He's the doggie of the crowd. He's about the same size as the cats, except for Timmy; Timmy the Tank could easily bulldoze Hank, leaving Hank as flat as a two-dimensional daschund.
Like others daschunds that I've housesat for, Hank is a clingy doggie. He's always in my lap. I often think I should strap Hank's 19-pound body to mine with some bungees cords. That way he'd never need to show me his sad doggie face and sing his sad doggie "woe is me, I'm not on your lap right this instant" song. Though I don't mind when he sits on my lap, standing on my lap leaves painful reminders of his visit.
|Hank has been standing on my lap. Can you tell?|
On the bright side, Hank makes the perfect "little spoon" when I fall asleep at night. So, he's a keeper.
Given the heat, water is a nice respite. There is a pool in the backyard, as is the case with most backyards in Florida. We had an above-ground pool when I was a kid, and I remember my mom constantly complaining about the upkeep required for the pool. This is the first pool I've "upkept," and geesh, it's nearly a full-time job! After every afternoon storm, it seems like half of the nearby tree's branches and leaves need to be removed from the pool. Dead frogs need to be skimmed off the surface multiple times a day. Though a little Polaris device sweeps the floor of the pool every morning for a few hours, Polaris's bowels need to be emptied. Did I mention adding chlorine to the water?
But...it sure is nice to go for a dip whenever I want!
There is a lake in the backyard, too.
|The lake out back, always colored by a beautiful sunset.|
How nice that the lake has provided a means of reflecting each evening's gorgeous sunset!
About a week into my housesit, I'm standing in the backyard next to the pool, looking out over the lake. What do I see? Though I first spot the alligator's wake far out in the middle of the lake, the gator appears to be moving in my direction. After a little while, it is swimming awfully close to the shore where the lake meets the backyard. A moment later, the alligator, who is at least 6 or 7 feet long, crawls out of the water and into the neighbor's yard. And then another alligator of a similar size jumps onto the land as well. One of the gators grabs something on the land, tosses it in the air, and catches it in its jowl, all in one quick'n'foul swoop. This incites jealousy, causing the second gator to initiate a little on-land scuttle with the first alligator. I could not believe my eyes! It was like watching the Nature Channel on a really big screen -- one with perfect reality-mimicking resolution. I wish I had my camera with me to take a photo. But I didn't want to leave the action...not until there was a commercial break at least.
Later that day, I'm on the phone with the homeowners, who are vacationing thousands of miles away in Hawaii. I'm again standing in the backyard. This time I'm watching Snoopy, who is lounging down by the plants at the lake's edge.
After catching up on what mail has arrived and whether the pest control has stopped by, I tell the homeowner about the gator sighting. She tells me that they haven't seen gators that close to their property in the twenty years that they have lived in their house. As she's telling me this, I spot another gator in the water. He's again swimming very close to the backyard. My eyes shift back-and-forth between Snoopy and the gator. Please don't let Snoopy be a Scooby snack! This time I had my camera with me:
|Setting the stage for the alligator and Snoopy.|
Since that day, I've been keeping a keen eye out for gators. Every time I walk by a window, I scan the surface of the water for an alligator wake. And every time I'm in the backyard, I again look towards the lake for gators. Before I swim in the pool, I make sure there aren't any amphibious dinosaurs with short legs lingering below the surface of the water or waiting to prance from behind the nearby vegetation. Fortunately, I have seen no gator sightings since "that day."
I'd so rather have an encounter with a bear than a gator. As bears are typically a greater threat to humans, there's no logic in my reasoning. Clearly I'm a girl who belongs in the Pacific Northwest.
These little prizes appear with remarkable frequency. Nearly every morning, there is a new gift laying on the doormat for me. I've learned that I gotta watch where I step, or else I might end up with a juicy trophy between my toes! You can bet a decent dollar that I check to make sure the kitties' mouths are empty before I let the kitties inside the house. Thankfully, the gifts have all remained outdoors.
As you know, I'm fascinated by roadkill. And though these froggies weren't killed by vehicles, I still find myself fascinated by them.
|Ants are feeding on this gift.|
|This poor guy was pierced by a fang between his eyes.|
|Frog legs anyone?|
To be honest, I'm surprised there are any frogs left. So many are sacrificed to the kitties. And so many more are sacrificed to the pool. It seems as though I scoop two or three little froggies out of the pool every morning. Most all of them are dead, having suffocated in the chlorinated water.
In regards to the frog massacres, I remind myself often: this is what cats do.
Other Creepy Crawlies: Ants, Roaches, Lizards, & Snakes
I'm told this is just part of living in the tropical climate of Florida. It's like when I lived in Arizona for grad school; it wasn't uncommon to find scorpions in the apartment. Scorpions in Arizona are akin to spiders in Washington...which are apparently akin to cockroaches in Florida.
Though there has been a scare recently about mosquitoes in Florida carrying the Zika virus, I have yet to see a single mosquito while I've been here. For what its worth, I'm hearing rumblings of Zika cases back home in Washington state.
There are a ton of lizards where I am in Florida, which probably helps with the mosquito population (though I understand that lizards only feed on mosquitoes opportunistically). I'm surprised lizards even bother to hang out in the backyard, given the plethora of wandering wildcats. Suffice it to say that many of the lizards are without tails.
When I stepped outside the other day, I saw two tangled lizards. What the fuck? Uh...mmm...I think those two are engaged in a fuck!
|Lizard sex (aka wildlife porn).|
This reminds me an awful lot of the slugs in my Bike Touring, Tiny Houses, & Slug Sex post from a few years back. Chilean street dogs do it (see Valparaíso: One, Two, & Four-Legged Creatures), slugs do it, and now I've learned that lizards do it, too.
For the record, I saw eagles do it once. It was right in front of my eyes! That was pretty amazing. That was in my pre-blogging days, on a bike tour around Camano Island, in the Puget Sound.
Back to Florida...
Oh yeah, and then there was this snake, who I found slithering atop the surface of the pool water. Thanks to the red ring around its neck, a quick Google search told me that it's a ringneck snake. (I could have guessed that!) This is a passive snake whose venom can be poisonous, though not to humans. I hope the cats don't find this little ringnecked gem!
|My little ringnecked friend.|
Like I said earlier, housesitting in Florida is like watching The Nature Channel. It's like being virtually implanted into a three-dimensional episode on Floridian wildlife.
I've never had to deal with gators, snakes, or other creepy crawlies in any of my Pacific Northwest housesits. I think I might need to see a therapist!
Florida's Natural Environment
In honor of The Everglades, though, I did watch a fabulous TEDx Talk given by a photographer named Mac Stone. In his talk called, "Stunning Photos of the Endangered Everglades," Mac claims that the tourism industry has been promoting the wrong thing in Florida -- it should be promoting the Florida wilderness.
Unbeknownst to me, Mac explained that The Everglades is more than just a National Park; it's an entire watershed that takes up nearly one-third of the state. Because of human activity in the last sixty years, though, the water input to Florida Bay, at the southern tip of the peninsula, has been reduced by two-thirds.
I'm not at all surprised by the overwhelming statistics. When I look around the neighborhood where I'm housesitting, it's easy to envision the beautiful wetlands that once covered this area. Now, instead, it's concrete, houses, a Walmart, and more concrete. Watch Mac's incredible presentation, which, I believe, is the next best thing to seeing The Everglades with your own eyes:
What I've appreciated most about Florida's nature has been the clouds, the storms, and the birds. I've spent hours out in the backyard pool, with my eyes fixated on the skies -- watching clouds swim by, watching storms gain force, and watching the most beautiful birds do aerial acrobatics. I'm partial to the birds with long legs and long necks. And I'm partial to the clouds that produce massively wicked thunderstorms -- ones that make the house shake and all my furry friends jump onto my lap in fear.
I'm rather green to the world of credit unions. I've had an account at a Seattle credit union for a few years now, but I really only opened the account because of its commendable interest rate.
When I got to Florida, I had some cash to deposit into my bank account. Though I have a few accounts at "national banks," they are all banks that are limited to an online presence.
I sorta remembered hearing that you could use out-of-state credit unions as long as they were part of the same "family" of credit unions. Wondering if my memory served me correctly, I visited a local credit union here in Florida. They confirmed that they were related to my credit union back home and were thus able to deposit my cash. When I heard this, I was thrilled! (Yes, it's the little things.)
|Hank is as indifferent about the headlines as I am.|
There is a massive-sized TV in the family room at the house. I turned it on to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Rio, but was quickly reminded of why I don't watch television: television is downright boring. Even the opening ceremonies were boring! I'm glad we're incorporating technology into the ceremonies, but when you shoot those distracting graphics onto the playing field, I can't see what really matters -- the unique performers in their unique costumes doing their unique ceremonial things.
As I was flipping through the channels in search of something more interesting, I found it hilarious that I couldn't find a single nature channel on the TV. There were thousands of sports channels and movie channels, as well as seconds of all those channels in HDTV. But there wasn't a single stinkin' channel to educate my little brain.
I take that back -- that's not fair of me. I could have educated myself about a plethora of new products on The Home Shopping Network and its various sister channels. Alas, I kept searching.
At some point, I found myself watching "America Ninja Warrior." This is a show where competitors tackle a series of challenging obstacles. With all due respect to those competing in the Olympics, I was far more impressed with the athletes competing in the Ninja Warrior competitions. Unlike the Olympians, who have specialized athletic skills, the ninjas have jack-of-all-trade physical abilities. For example:
The homeowners offered their automobile to me. While I appreciate the offer, and while the vehicle would definitely come in handy in case of an emergency, I prefer to self-propel myself around town.
Although I have my folding bicycle with me here in Florida, it hasn't seen the light of day. Admittedly, the temperatures aren't exactly conducive for a leisurely bike ride. But, what's more to blame is the drivers of the aforementioned automobiles.
The nearest grocery store is a Walmart. I wouldn't choose to shop at Walmart, but when in Florida, do as the Floridians do. The first time I walked over to Walmart, I thought I was going to die. I literally almost got hit by a car three times!!! And I was walking along sidewalks!!!
It's possible drivers aren't accustomed to looking for pedestrians because there aren't really that many pedestrians. It's also possible that Florida hasn't established (or at least hasn't enforced) pedestrian-friendly laws. I'm a savvy enough pedestrian to know that it's wise to make eye-contact with drivers before crossing a street. But, it's difficult to make eye contact when so many cars have tinted windows.
Plus, it seems as though most drivers are too engaged in their cell phone conversations to drive responsibly. I was SHOCKED when I looked at Florida's DMV website to get an understanding of the state's cell phone laws:
Even though talking on a cell phone while driving is legal in Florida, it can result in a traffic ticket if you break a road rule or cause an accident. (Source: http://www.dmvflorida.org/cell-phone-distractions.shtml.)
Are you friggin' kidding me? I refuse to ride my bike in a state that supports driving while intoxicated by cell phone conversations! The gratuitous use of exclamation points on the DMV website makes we want to hurl: "...Keep your drivers license in good status and keep your cell phone use for emergencies only when driving a car!...If you are behind the wheel and you get a call, just let it ring!...You should not engage in stressful or emotional conversations that may distract you from your primary task - driving your car!...If road conditions are not safe, traffic is heavy, or weather is severe, don't use your cell phone -- it is simply not worth risking a crash…or your life!" Really? Are we so selfish that we're only worried about our own lives? I'm disappointed in you, Florida. Very disappointed.
Tying Up My Musings In A Nice Little Bow
I'm clearly a girl of the Pacific Northwest. I love cockroach-free housesits, my bears, and my state cell phone laws. I'll gladly give up my cleavage to be back in the Pacific Northwest.