Monday, May 22, 2006

Career Satisfaction

I have accepted a NEW JOB -- and resigned from my current job. Finally! Been job hunting off and on since last November.

I’m now in that weightless period defined by no longer bearing responsibility for any particular set of job-related problems. Nirvana. Handing off all my present projects, and not yet having taken on new projects.

A brief Florida vacation on the horizon.

What a wonderful period of time! I will savor every moment until June 12 when I begin the new job. Hopefully it will be better than this one.

Hope… yet another defining quality of this period of time. Hope has been restored to my workaday world. Things appear rosier. Ambition and confidence return. Life is good.

Maybe it will take longer this time, before it all starts to deteriorate and the search must begin anew.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's in a Name?

Photo by Linda Mason Hood
From the very beginning we couldn’t agree on names for the two red-eared sliders I bought in NYC’s Chinatown in the fall of 2003. Just back from a fabulous Ireland vacation, I favored noble Irish names like Niall and Fintan for the emerald green turtles. My husband called them simply Big Turtle and Little Turtle since one was slightly larger than the other. Neither turtle was big, mind you. Both were about the size of silver dollars, which would make them 1-2 months old. My teenage son thought the perfect choice of names was Dinky and Doofus: Dinky for obvious reasons and Doofus because the bigger one seemed particularly uncoordinated, often falling backwards into the water when his awkward attempts to haul himself onto his turtle dock failed utterly. Lacking consensus, we defaulted to the generic names of Big Turtle and Little Turtle, and for about 18 months that’s what most of us called them most of the time.

In the spring of 2005 my worries over the condition of Little Turtle’s shell gave impetus to a name change. Feeling slightly embarrassed at the thought of registering this animal at my local vet with a totally uncreative name like Little Turtle, I quickly renamed both turtles to Billy T and Lilly T. I reasoned that we could make the transition easily since the new names were phonetically close to the names we were accustomed to using.

Before continuing the saga of the names, I have to tell you a few facts about the maturation of turtles. Sexual differences don't become apparent until the carapace (shell on their back) reaches 4 inches in length from head to tail. Well fed captive turtles might reach that size in only 2 years, whereas turtles in the wild might take 3-4 years. At 4 inches they develop certain male characteristics: the front toenails get REALLY long - like Edward Scissorhands - and the tail thickens as the penis develops inside. They also start practicing their mating moves. In human terms, they enter adolescence.

For more than 2 years we assumed Little Turtle, or Lilly T, was female, at first because she was more diminutive and later because her toenails remained short. Only in hindsight did we consider the possibility that she was merely growing more slowly because she wasn’t as healthy. After I set up the 55-gallon tank pictured above with its high quality UVB light and powerful filtration system, Lilly’s health slowly improved. Now, a year later, all traces of shell rot are gone. She’s finally achieved 4 inches in length -- and guess what? Her nails are growing, her tail is thickening, and she’s practicing male mating moves too!

So what’s in a name anyway? I don’t really mean their scientific names, in this case Trachemys scripta elegans, which classifies these turtles among their species. No, I'm referring to the everyday names we give them when we keep them as pets. If the name is meant to express something about the personality of the animal, maybe we should have stopped with Dinky and Doofus. If the name merely describes outward appearance, Big Turtle and Little Turtle would still be appropriate. If the name is related to place of origin, Billy and Lilly (or Lyle, or Larry) are more appropriate than my Irish names since these particular turtles are native to the Mississippi valley from northern Illinois and Indiana to the northern Gulf of Mexico and throughout the south. (Check out the Gulf States Marine Fishery Commission Fact Sheet for lots of interesting facts and a lovely picture.)

It’s becoming clear, the more I think about it, that these turtles’ names are more personal and comprehensive than any one of the factors above. Names give us an easy way to refer to our pets. Once the name becomes habit, we begin to build a whole personality around it and a relationship with the invented personality. The name enables us make a personal connection with the animal. This connection can vary widely from time to time and from animal to animal. It can encompass everything from entertainment to comfort. It elevates our involvement above that of mere animal husbandry. my, my... how we do complicate life, we humans!

This week I was complaining about the identity disruption I was experiencing as I tried to call Lilly by a new name. My husband’s response was, “it’s all in your head.” And you know what? He was right. Identity is just not something turtles worry about. Given time, my concept of Lilly will adjust, I'm sure. Meanwhile, the turtles will go about their slow and simple business -- eating, basking, swimming, sleeping, and forever moving their log around on the bottom of the tank -- without concern for trivial matters like the names humans give them. And I shall practice saying Lyle, Lyle, Lyle…

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Truffles, Turtles & Tunes

The three nouns I’ve chosen for my blog title symbolize the major preoccupations of my life at the moment. The arrangement of these nouns is purely rhythmic and isn’t meant to indicate the amount of time spent pondering any one of them. No, priority shifts among them as life’s events unfold. Set down in this particular order, I thought the nouns had a pleasing lilt. After all, a blog that will include occasional posts on music ought to bear a title that swings a little, don’t you think?

“Truffles” (as in mushrooms, not chocolates) stands for my interest in becoming a vegetarian. Although the vegetarian idea has appealed to me for some time now, I’m finding that making such a radical change in my eating habits is not only challenging but complicated on many levels. I’ve started to see becoming a vegetarian as a process, a journey.

“Turtles” stands for my interest in keeping two red-eared sliders healthy and happy. Since I acquired them as hatchlings two years ago, I’ve learned a great deal about what sorts of creatures they are and what they require. I love watching them bask and swim, and I marvel at the fact that their anatomy remains basically unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. With a bit of luck and proper care they could actually outlive me, so I see my involvement with these turtles as a journey of another sort.

“Tunes” stands for my interest in music, currently focused on learning to play traditional Irish music on the flute and tin whistle. Since an Ireland vacation three years ago, I’ve been deeply moved by the joyous beauty of Irish dance tunes and intend to play them really well someday. I’m constantly intrigued by the differences between traditional and classical music. It seems that traditional Irish music takes most of the concepts I learned in classical music and turns them on their head. This perspective, though confusing and frustrating at times, has given new life to my musical journey.

My blog posts will deal with these three areas of my life and will focus on whichever preoccupation has grabbed my attention most recently. But why publish this stuff online, you may ask? I’m not really sure. As a form of communication? As a form of reflection, since the act of writing helps clarify one’s thinking? As a way to participate in the current blog craze and thereby understand it better? Who knows… While the whole blogging phenomenon still seems a little weird to me, I knew I was hooked when I realized that I’m a regular reader of at least six blogs and look forward to new posts on each of them. On occasion I’ve even been known to browse the blogs of total strangers! So what the heck… In the spirit of sharing the journey, here goes…

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement