“Shit, girl, I know, I got a red fox and that sumbitch is always escaping.”

(Can I just say that most days I love Florida, but some days I realllllllly love Florida.)

The woman who said that had to say some variation of that same sentence four times before it dawned on me that she meant she had a red fox as a pet. And that her pet red fox was always escaping. And when I finally realized that that’s what she meant, all I could think was, “Well, duh, it’s a fox,” but not, “Who the hell has a fox as a pet?”


Because I’m from the South. And we will domesticate anything.

First, though, I should explain that this conversation took place yesterday, on the playground of the Presbyterian church about a quarter mile from my house. My dog Hank, a yellow lab — a very much domesticated breed of actual pet — had again escaped because, well, duh, that’s what Hanks do. This time Hank made it to the Presbyterian church where the friendly neighborhood fox owner/preschool teacher corralled him onto the playground because it was fenced in, and then called me to come get him because my number is on his collar.

But sitting here now, mulling over that exchange, I got to thinking: why are Southerners so eager to bring the outside, in?

When I was growing up in Nashville my guitar teacher (because everyone in Nashville has a guitar teacher)  had a flying squirrel he had “tamed”. (in quotation marks because that thing was anything but tame.) He kept it in a drawer when students were there for lessons, but sometimes he opened the drawer and, as you might expect, the pissed off flying squirrel would, well, fly.


It was awesome.

A few years ago my husband and I were at a gun show in Fayetteville, NC (I know, I know, a gun show…what did we expect?) and we were talking to an exhibitor about dogs. We had just gotten Hank and in those days we talked about dogs to anyone who seemed even mildly interested. We should have guessed by the airbrushed image of the Indian chief, in front of a dream catcher, backlit with moonlight, on her t-shirt that she wasn’t likely to own, oh, say, a Jack Russell. But as she told us about her dog’s remarkable hunting and guarding abilities and how important security was up in the mountains where she lived in a house “off the grid” (said with great pride) we broke down and asked what breed her dog was.

“A wolf.”

We waited for more then finally asked. “A real wolf?”

Turns out she found him as a puppy and kept him.


Which shouldn’t have surprised my husband as much as it did. For years I’d heard him talk about the freakishly large, freakishly aggressive, pointy-eared cat his grandmother in Virginia used to have. When I finally saw a picture of the “cat” it all made sense.

It was a bobcat.

“He liked her, but he didn’t like anyone else,” was all my husband said, shrugging, as he looked at the picture with fresh eyes and found that he agreed with my breed classification. Which, by the way, puts his grandmother almost on par with the guy in NC who uttered the greatest sentence I’ve ever heard: “I got this here baby tiger at bike week in Daytona.”

There is so much right — and wrong — with that.

All of which brings me to the greatest what-were-you-thinking exotic animal story I’ve ever heard. My friend Valerie, who grew up in Jackson, Tenn., recently told the story of her sister Vicky and a pet cougar named Tico:

“Vicky was in high school and her boyfriend got her the baby cougar as a gift,” Valerie said matter-of-factly, as if everyone gives their high school girlfriend a deadly feline as a token of affection, “but Mama said she didn’t want that cougar in the house and wouldn’t let Vicky bring him inside.” (Logical.)

“So Vicky took Tico everywhere with her, but she had to leave him in her [Mazda] 626 when she worked her shift at Walmart, and Tico would get so pissed!” 

(Okay… pet cougar… locked in a car … in the Walmart parking lot… who wouldn’t pay to see that? )


“Tico shredded that 626 so bad and eventually he got so big Vicky couldn’t keep him anymore and so she gave him back to her boyfriend.

(Who did what with him? We don’t know. Maybe he took him to bike week in Daytona.)



2013 Parenting


2013 Parenting:

6 a.m. Wake-up

6:17  Hit snooze for the second time

6:30 Get up, make bed, let the dog out, make the coffee, wake the kids

6:36 Scream upstairs “If you don’t get out of bed now you’re going to be late and miss the bus! And I do NOT want to drag everybody out of the house just to drive you to school!”

6:45 Pour the cereal. Pretend it’s nutritious. Deliver silent self-lecture on how eating cereal with milk is no worse, and probably way-better, than something totally unhealthy like Toaster Strudel. Give the kids vitamins as a back up measure. Remind self to buy kid version of fish oil to add to their regimen.

7 – 7:37 Walk in circles around the living room, alternately yelling at kids to “hurry up!” and “put on your shoes!” Add in three extra laps while trying to remember what I was walking to get in the first place.

7:38. Crap. Totally forgot to let the dog back in. He’s not in the yard. Must have jumped the fence. Again.

7:47 Walk with kids to the bus stop, two minutes late. Again. Spy the dog in the distance, running in circles on a neighbor’s lawn. Reason that he must have learned that trick from me. Debate whether to a) go with the kids to get the dog and risk missing the bus; b) leave some or all the kids at the bus stop and run for the dog, risking them being kidnapped or hit by a car(s); or c) wait for the bus and hope the dog stays put or finds his own way home. Opt for c. He doesn’t stay put. Silently hope that he doesn’t find his own way home.

8 Turn on “Oscar’s Oasis” for the preschooler and put the baby in her “cage”. Turn on my computer and check Facebook. Recall that once upon a time I had dreams and goals but am too tired to remember them, much less care. Play “Gems with Friends” on my phone instead.

8:12 Notice that I have 43 emails alerting me to LinkedIn connections and endorsements. Vow to figure out how LinkedIn works. Tomorrow. Perhaps that’s the key to making this work-at-home thing profitable.

8:17 Read an article about how tween girls are bullying each other on Instagram. Now I have to figure out Instagram, too, including learning that the cool kids just call it “Insta.” Post the article to Facebook.

8:27 According to friends’ comments on my Facebook Instagram story post, predators are stalking kids who play online video games (like Gems? NO!!!) and using social media like Facebook (duh), Twitter (that’s still around?), Pinterest (thought that was just for craft projects…what’s next, Etsy?), Tumblr (huh?), Reddit (wha?), GooglePlus (that took off?) and MySpace (WTH – MySpace? I have to worry about Facebook’s trashy cousin again?) to meet and groom kids… Sidebar: start wondering why anyone needs StumbleUpon? Stumbling upon things is the easiest thing to do online without help… My friends recommend keeping track of all of my kids’ accounts and passwords and monitoring these daily, if not hourly. A few even reference the violence in video games and how it causes sociopathic behavior. They say that kids should never be allowed to play video games without a parent watching. (What?!! Well, then what is the point of video games?!!)

8:43 Eye the liquor cabinet and wonder if it’s too early for a cocktail. Maybe one with coffee in it? I’ve had LinkedIn and Twitter accounts since 2009 and still haven’t made time to monitor MY OWN feeds. I don’t even know MY OWN passwords. Realize that there’s no way I’ll ever remember those long-buried dreams if I’m up to my earlobes in under-age Insta feeds.

9:05 Click on Pinterest to look for a crock pot recipe. Am re-directed to a galaxy, nay, a universe, of mommy-blogs. Wonder who in the hell has time to photograph a sage-rubbed roasted chicken with all this newsfeed stalking (and, um, parenting) we’re supposed to be doing?

9:37 Have finally cleared the inboxes for my seven (why?!) email accounts. 236 messages (in addition to the LinkedIn alerts) have come in since 11 p.m. 222 are advertisements from companies I’ve bought something from in the past. Seven are newsletters from charities I’ve donated to. Four are related to the kids activities. Three are actual, honest-to-God, missives from actual honest-to-God people. Remind self to unsubscribe from all these mailing lists. Attempt to do so but 12 minutes and 2 successful unsubscriptions later, quit. Maybe if I just start a new email address I can ignore these accounts…

10 Google various therapeutic programs I’ve been meaning to research for the kids. Horseback riding, scouting, karate, swimming…  Realize that every kid needs therapy today because every kid has been diagnosed with a condition. When I was a kid we called these therapy sessions “lessons” and “sports” and we called the conditions “weird”, “annoying”, “energetic” and “rude”.

10:15 Put the baby down for her nap. Thank God. She was making me feel guilty with all that quiet play she was doing in her cage.

10:32 Phone rings. Lady says she has my dog. Consider asking her to keep him… Get the baby up, put the kids in the car, go get the dog.

11:30 It’s too late to make up the missed nap. Lunchtime!

12 Try to keep the baby awake for just a little bit longer by playing “crawl parade” on the floor with both girls. Crawl parade is hell on the knees. And boring. The girls love it.

12:17 Still crawling. Maybe this will be the next exercise craze. Maybe next year Beyonce will release an exercise video called “Crawling Back to Sexy” or something. It could be like hula hooping. Reflect on the posse of overweight ladies I saw hula hooping on the sidewalk last week. They would look no more ridiculous crawling.

12:19 The TruGreen guy is looking in the window. Watching. How long has he been there? Put the preschooler at the table with a coloring book and lay the baby down for a nap before answering the door.

12:43 Am now a TruGreen customer. Not really sure what TruGreen is, just wanted the pushy salesman to go away. Google TruGreen. It’s pesticides. Realize that pesticides on my lawn don’t really mesh with my commitment to eat organic this year. Vow to cancel TruGreen. Decide to blame it on the hubs in order to spare myself the last ditch “don’t cancel” sales pitch.

1:04 Back to the computer to do some worky-work, as opposed to mommy-wifey-work.

1:30 Still haven’t put anything in the crock pot. There’s still time if we eat late and use the “high” setting. Look at JustaPinch.com and Recipe.com, then decide to use the tablet because it’s more portable. Browse the Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated apps for recipes.

2:30 Crap. Got lost in a world of electronic recipes and phone calls from doctors’ offices. Throw some chicken breasts, potatoes, onions and carrots into the crock pot, make a wish, and hope the crock pot will work its magic. Toss in garlic salt as an afterthought. Wonder if the garlic salt contains iodized or sea salt. Briefly consider if any of the veggies are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of things to always buy organic. Glance at the massive size of the chicken breasts on top of the veggies and guiltily recall the “Food, Inc.” documentary. Consider building a chicken coop and raising chickens in my own backyard. Remind self to call TruGreen and cancel. No point raising chickens on chemically-treated grass.

2: 39 Ugh. Realize that if I raise my own chickens for meat then I’ll have to slaughter, pluck and disembowel them, too. Google “slaughter chicken.” Vomit in mouth. Decide that steep price for organic chicken is really not so steep.

2:47 Google “pest control”. What use is going organic and chemical-free inside my home if I’m paying Terminix to spray the outside. Maybe I should cancel Terminix, too? Still haven’t called TruGreen…

3 Who knew you could kill ants with Borax? Damn you, Pinterest! I’m sucked in again!

3:23 Child #1 is home from school, soaked. Wants to know why I didn’t pick him up from the bus stop. Doesn’t understand when I explain that I was busy saving our family from pesticides and hormones.

3:47 Homework is hell — on me. His meds have worn off and the privacy cubicle we erected as a homework station has only peaked his little sister’s curiousity. She keeps whining that she wants a cubicle, too. Fine, let her think that. Twenty years from now when she’s working under florescent lights in a room filled with softly playing radios and cat meme screensavers she won’t want that cubicle so much, I think.

4 Recall something about lost dreams. Start walking circles in the living room. At least the chicken in the crock pot smells good.

4:13 Yell at kids to get their cleats and shin guards on for soccer, er, therapy. Yell, “If you don’t get in the car right now you’ll both be late!”

4:32 Realize, five minutes away from the soccer field, that today is my day to be “snack mom” and I have brought no snacks. Give self silent lecture on how ridiculous it is for parents to sign kids up for sports/therapy so that our little fatties will burn 220 calories and then we fill them with 550 calories worth of Rice Krispies Treats and Gatorade. Decide to pretend I didn’t know it was my turn. Aren’t these kids all about to eat dinner, anyway?

5:25 Home for the nighttime rush: dinner, more homework, baths and bed… and then it all begins again tomorrow.

Lean in? Lean in?!! — I just wanna lie down.