PANDEMIC PETS

With ongoing pandemic lockdown, I decided that if we couldn’t leave the house in search of food and fun, I would shop online and bring it to our doorstep in the form of a pet. Great idea or what?!

My seven-year-old daughter wanted a fluffy dog. My three-year-old son wanted a fluffy cat. I wanted a pocket-sized chihuahua. Lucky for them, I was willing to compromise with a fluffy pocket-sized chihuahua that had a passing resemblance to a cat.

“No inside animals! Pets should live outside.” Regrettably, my husband was opposed to the idea of an inside pet. Bah, what a party pooper!

We argued that our fish once lived in the house and they were considered pets! Well, until the unfortunate fish massacre. Since we lost our treasured Zane (greedy angel fish) and Archie (chilled albino catfish), my husband has been reluctant to return to pet ownership.

Due to the lack of a proper backyard, we agreed that our pets needed to be hardy and low maintenance. While it was my intention to have the children be responsible for looking after our new pet, realistically I would be the chump lumped with the task. So, I wanted a pet that didn’t need regular exercise (because I hate sweating) or grooming (because I’m lazy) and could survive not eating and drinking for a few days (because I’m sketchy at best).

We are now the proud owners of a thousand new pets. You read correctly, a thousand, give or take a few and they only cost us a measly fifty dollars. Have you guessed it? Worms. Wriggly, slippery and icky worms.

They came packed in some worm bedding inside a plastic bag and packaged in a cardboard box. In true Kathy form, I threw away the instruction booklet and in doing so, inadvertently discarded the troubleshooting pages. I could have saved myself a gigantic amount of pain if I had taken the time to read the ‘what can go wrong’ pages, for I’ve encountered a great deal of problems.

There’s been the Great Plague of the Vinegar Flies caused by my overzealous feeding with organic waste. FYI, flies really love banana skins. I tried vinegar/soap fly traps, moist cut up paper scrap barriers, removed big food scraps, conditioned and aerated the soil and changed the order of the trays. I stopped adding organic waste for a few weeks and eventually, most of the flies have disappeared.

Next came the Invasion of the Black Ants caused by the worms hibernating instead of eating during a short period of blistering cold weather. I ended up googling and putting trays of water around the legs of the worm farm to prevent ants from entering the trays. I also tried to drown the suckers with extra watering.

And because of my lack of restraint, I have a problem with potworms. Turns out, an overly moist environment, abundance of rotting fruit and vegetables and ungrounded eggshells have encouraged the growth of these unwanted worms. Originally, I thought these tiny white worms were finally the results of my worm farming mastery and happy worm bliss coupling. Not the case. Again, I consulted the wise ol’ Google and was advised to put a stale piece of bread drenched in milk to entice the potworms to the surface for disposal.

Now, I have another attack of the Black Ants AND a healthy population of Prolific Potworms. Sigh. So much for low-maintenance pets. Anyone got any ideas other than gifting it to my dad?

It’s a good thing that we live in a world where information is at the tip of our fingers. For without YouTube and Google, these worms would have already died a painful death from my mismanagement and negligence. Can you get a fine for worm cruelty?

The children want nothing to do with the worm farm, complaining that it stinks (It doesn’t!). The husband isn’t interested in co-ownership, even with supposed “benefits” thrown in. I’m on my own folks.

I know people say that a pet is for life and not just for Christmas… ahem, I mean lockdown, so now I have only one question. What’s the lifespan of a worm? Or in my case, a thousand worms?

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SETBACK IS NOT FAILURE

I’ve been off social media and blogging since mid June. I took a short break after I felt my mental health suffer from the constant negative news of COVID-19 and the re-emergence of a second wave of the virus where I live. Many things have happened during my sabbatical – some funny, some embarrassing and a few not so great. I’ll start at the beginning; the moment that prompted my temporary absence.


Reflection from 26/06/20 – prior to the second wave of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown.

For the last six months, I’ve been feeling happy and mentally healthy. I’ve worked on improving social connections, reducing social anxiety and negativity, and lessening the need for control. ‘Let It Go’ has become my new mantra. In fact, not long ago, I suggested to my doctor that perhaps I had reached the stages of maintenance or recovery. Yesterday, I had a humbling reminder that achieving good mental health is an ongoing journey and setbacks can happen. In actuality, setbacks are part of the recovery.

Late in the afternoon, seemingly out of nowhere, I started experiencing shortness of breath, coughing and tightness in my chest. It felt like an elephant had nestled down on my sternum. My immediate thought was ‘grab the puffer, it’s an asthma attack’. If I hadn’t panicked and had taken a moment to think, I would have concluded that a random asthma attack while playing a Nintendo game was improbable.

Frantic to alleviate the shortness of breath, I puffed Ventolin like it was going out of fashion. It did nothing but gave me the shakes and dizziness. You’d think being an ex-pharmacist, I’d be a tad more informed but no, gasping for air must have killed all rational brain cells. My husband suggested I sought medical attention and question possible COVID-19 infection.

I was promptly seen at the medical clinic with the doctor checking all of my vitals, including oxygen saturation. When asked what triggered the symptoms, I was at a loss. In the morning, my three-year-old son and I had watched trains past at the nearby train station, played at the local park and had babychinos.

At the time of the attack, we were playing Animal Crossing, making ‘money’ through the sale of harvested fruit. It’s a big loan, two and a half million ‘dollars’ to be exact, so there could be some causality. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.

The most likely trigger was the discussion I had with my husband, which had taken place an hour prior to the onset of symptoms. We were deciding whether or not it was in everyone’s best interest to travel almost seven hours to stay with the in-laws amidst the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. It was a mutual agreement to can the trip.

The doctor gave me two options; go to the emergency department for oxygen nebulisation and get checked for COVID-19, blood clots and asthma or stay in the clinic’s treatment room for observation after taking a Valium for a suspected panic attack. I countered with ‘I think I’ll just walk it off. Uh… or go home and rest.’ In the end, I reluctantly took the Valium and waited in the treatment room for the dizziness, pins and needles, tremors and chest tightness to dissipate.

As I sat on the treatment bed, several nurses came in and out of the room to gather medical supplies and asked why I was there. I felt embarrassed having to repeatedly admit that I had suffered a panic attack and as a result, hyperventilated. I also felt ashamed for occupying a treatment room and wasting the doctor’s time, who could have attended to patients with ‘real’ problems. Stupid, right?

Instead of accepting it for what it was – a panic attack, I let the experience colour my interpretation of my self-worth. I failed. Therefore, I am a failure. I allowed myself to believe that falsehood.

That internal dialogue of mine can be cruel and critical, making me proficient at self-sabotage. I’m quite the high-achiever in that regard. I have such a negative perception of myself that every time I am faced with challenges or a setback, I am quick to accept defeat.

Ironically, I am fast to point out to others the importance of being kind to yourself and owning and valuing your truth. It’s high time I heed my own advice.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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FRIDAY FUNDAY

Friday. It has become my favourite day of the week. It marks the end of another exhausting week of “teaching” a whingeing grade two daughter and a short-tempered kinder son. It’s a temporary reprieve from having to lavish excessive praise, plead and badger, and issuing empty threats to get the children to complete tasks in a timely manner. It’s the end of being the rope in the tug of war between two children who need my help. I get a breather from juggling household chores and schooling the children. By Friday, I am utterly and completely spent. I’ve tapped out.

Back in mid-March when my daughter was still attending school, my husband and I had many arguments on whether it was safe to send her. At the time, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Australia was on the rise, and there was mounting pressure from parents and school teachers for the Government to close schools. My husband was working from home, along with hundreds of others from his workplace. We had pulled our son from childcare to save money and reduce exposure. So in my mind, I couldn’t understand why we would risk my daughter and us by sending her to school.

Despite the Chief Medical Officer and Prime Minister reiterating that going to school represented a low risk to children, it did not sway my opinion because what-if my children were the exception? I wanted my children safe at home and I did not care about the costs or impacts of that decision.

My husband had a different opinion. He believed that the cost of closing schools and businesses was too steep a price to pay, given our significantly lower confirmed cases compared to other countries. He strongly believed that the economic and educational impacts far outweighed the risk of transmission through schools. He argued that schools needed to remain open for people who needed to work, hospital workers and emergency service personnel. He reasoned that children need normality and remote-access learning could affect children’s mental health and see vulnerable children left behind. He didn’t feel the level of response matched the level of threat.

The debate raged on for weeks and we kept to our staunch views on schools. I was relieved when there was a state directive to close Victorian schools. I was prepared to step up to the plate to do my best with home learning if it meant keeping my family safe from Coronavirus.

As of yesterday, Victoria had six new confirmed cases, with a total of 14 confirmed cases nationwide. Have closing schools made a great impact on reducing infected numbers? Was the cost to students, parents, carers and economy worth it? Or was the success in reduction largely due to social distancing, restriction of businesses and border closures? Who knows. The important thing is that our collective efforts and temporary hardships have led to containing this virus and prevented the devastation seen overseas.

Now with the threat diminished, I want to return to some kind of normalcy. I would like to see schools reopened and children able to see their friends and teachers. While I love (*cough*) playing substitute teacher, sitting in a classroom with fellow students being taught by a teacher is better for everyone. No parent needs their seven-year-old discovering that they have to google and phone-a-friend lifeline the answers to grade two homework.

More importantly, at this point, home schooling my children poses far greater health risks than any pandemic.

 

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