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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Facing My Fears

As I mentioned before, my husband loves Groupon.  He excitedly told me last week about a new deal he had gotten for us to enjoy.  He said he has seen it on there several different times, and never gotten it, but had finally went ahead with it and he was so happy.  He said it was to something called “Repticon.”  “Um, is that something to do with the Transformers?” I asked hopefully.  “Nope!  It’s a reptile exhibit!” he said.  Uh-oh. 

We all have our things that we are afraid of.  I love turtles.  I’m pretty okay with lizards.  I’ve always been really afraid of frogs and totally terrified of snakes.  And this is the way it’s been for as long as I can remember.  I thought pretty much everybody was afraid of snakes.  Until I met Brad.

I realized there was something a little different about him the first Easter we spent together, my freshmen year in college.  Back then my family had a big Easter get-together every year.  We ate, and hid eggs for the kids, but the main attraction was the adult Easter egg hunt.  Yes, that’s right, the grown-ups hunted more eggs than the kids.  And they were ALL prize eggs.  My family saved up stuff all year for this hunt, and every egg had a slip of paper in it with a number on it, and the number corresponded to a prize.  They were GOOD prizes too.  One of my aunts sold Beauty Control, and I would get stocked up on make-up at the Easter egg hunt, and that year Brad won a fishing pole!  But that’s not the thing that everybody remembers. 

We were out there hunting our eggs, and my cousin Lisa reached into big grove of elephant ear plants and saw an unpleasant surprise.  “SNAKE!” she screamed, which resulted in a stampede of epic proportions.  Seriously.  We are not snake people.  As we all ran in different directions, up and down the hillside, screaming and running into each other; one person heads towards the grove of elephant ears.  Yep, you guessed it.  My Brad. 

He parted the big leaves and took a gander at the snake.  My Eagle Scout quickly determined it wasn’t poisonous—it was only a little garter snake.  But as far as my family is concerned, there is only one kind of snake:  Copperheaded Rattle Moccasins.  We assume they are all poisonous and deadly.  Because if the snake won’t kill us, we will surely kill ourselves trying to get away from it.

That day as we were running amuck, Brad did something that made everybody stop in their tracks.  He reached in and PICKED THE SNAKE UP!  My entire family came to a screeching halt, and silence descended on the land.  They all gawked at him.  Did I mention this was the first time I brought him to a family event and introduced him to everybody?  Yes, way to make a good impression Brad!  I stood there cringing, and Brad, oblivious to the commotion he had just caused, calmly headed across the road to release the snake back into the wild and away from my crazy family.  As the headed out of the yard, one of my aunts said “Is he going to EAT it?”  Another aunt muttered “I didn’t know Methodists handled snakes…”  And then the third aunt said “Well, at least we know he can take care of her!”  And with that remark, Brad was accepted into the family. 

Brad loves ALL of God’s creatures, and somehow I managed to give birth to a little girl that is just like him.  Don’t get me wrong, I love animals too, but I’m pretty much a dog person.  Korban loves to look at animals, but he’s still learning how to interact with them. 

Now Selah has touched snakes before, at different zoos and museums and such, and she is not afraid of them.  Both my family and Brad’s has gotten onto us for letting her touch the snakes, because they are afraid she will find one out in the yard or something and just snatch it up.  And I understand their concern, but I really don’t want her to be afraid of snakes.  I know that sounds crazy, coming from someone who’s always been terrified of them.  Here’s the thing—I don’t like feeling afraid.  Snakes give me the heebie jeebies, but truthfully, most of them are not dangerous.  I read somewhere that like 95% of people who were bitten by snakes were trying to kill it at the time they were bitten.  In that case, I guess the snake was acting in self-defense.  And no worries for me in that area—I never planned to get close enough to one to try to kill it.  “Use a hoe!” my family tells me.  “They don’t make hoes long enough!” I tell them.  

I tried to apply some logic to this though.  Like I said, I love dogs.   Selah does too.  But just like it’s not a good idea to go out and pick up some snake, it’s also not a great idea to approach a dog you don’t know and try to pet it.  I always caution Selah to ask the dog’s owner before she tries to touch it.  We’ve had opportunities to practice this, at friends’ houses and also at the park when we are there playing and people are out walking their dogs.  I’ve tried to teach my kids that most dogs are friendly, but they aren’t all nice, and sometimes their owner might just not want to be bothered or the dog might be a service animal.  It’s just better to ask before you run up and pet ANY animal.  And honestly, I know way more people that have been bitten by dogs than by snakes, including myself.

So that brings us to today, and Repticon.  We always try to do a fun day before back to school, and today was it.  We headed for Southaven this morning, and the kids were looking forward to seeing the animals.  Brad and I didn’t realize that this exhibit was more or less just a bunch of people trying to sell exotic pets, but it was still really cool.  They had like a little classroom area set up and different people spoke about different pets.  And of course they had tons of animals on display, although most of them were in cages. 

Most, but not all.  There were quite a few people walking around with snakes wrapped around their necks, like a necklace or something.  I made a mental note to try to steer clear of those people.  But good grief, we were at a reptile exhibit, so what did I expect? There was one guy walking around with a HUGE snake around his shoulders, and while we were crowded in looking at something, he and his buddy walked right up behind us.   He wasn’t being rude at all, they were just looking too, but there wasn’t anywhere I could go to get away from him.  I seriously had to catch myself because I started breathing really fast and shallow and I had to talk myself out of the crazy tree just a little bit.  But once I was able to put a little space between us, I decided that I needed to just go on and conquer that fear as best I could while I had such an opportunity.

I approached the guy and asked if we could look at the snake, and he was more than happy to show her off to us.  Yes, she was a girl, but I don’t remember her name.  He told us what kind she was—a boa, if I remember correctly.  My brain was probably still deprived of oxygen at this point.  He told us she was really sweet natured and to illustrate this point, he kissed that snake right on her snakey face.  I didn’t even pee my pants.  I am so proud of me.   I asked if we could make pictures and touch her, and he said sure.  So I snapped some photos, and then I petted her.  Brad says I only poked the snake, since I just used my fingertip and barely touched her, but I disagree.  The snake owner proudly told us that she was 5’5”, which makes her five inches taller than me.  I think the fact that I could even stand in the same room with her was a huge step for me.  And Brad really was proud, I could tell. 

By far, our favorite animal was the bearded dragon.  It’s a large lizard that they tout as being the “dogs of the reptile world.”  They are very calm, and docile.  Friendly even, and good with kids.  They are also hypoallergenic, which is pretty cool for an indoor pet in a houseful of asthma sufferers.  The kids loved them, and I told Brad I really wouldn’t mind having one someday.  People were also walking around with those sitting on their shoulders, and it looked much less creepy to me than the snakes.  I really think I even saw some of the lizards snuggling!  I think what totally sold Brad on it was the harnesses.  They sold little harnesses for them, so you can walk your lizard!  Can you imagine busting up in the walking track with a two foot long lizard on a leash?  That might cause a stir.  But of all things, they were selling handmade dragon harnesses today, and they had an Ole Miss pattern.  For real!  So if we ever get a pet dragon, you know it will be an Ole Miss fan. 

Afterwards, I laughed and said to Brad “You know if you didn’t have me, you could’ve been one of those guys walking around with a snake on your shoulders.”  (He’s always wanted a python, but I laid the law down on that one.)  “Was I worth it?” I asked him.  He rolled his eyes and said sarcastically “Let me get back to you on that one.”  And then he said “Seriously though, have you ever thought about how many girls WOULDN’T have married me because of Precious?”  Precious was his pet tarantula.  He got her the year before we started dating and had her until she died of old age a couple of years after we got married.  So yes, I lived with a tarantula.  She honestly didn’t bother me very much though.  I’ve never been terribly afraid of spiders—mainly just snakes and frogs—and she stayed in her cage all the time, so it’s wasn’t like we had a giant free-range spider roaming around.  What he said got me thinking, and I couldn’t really think of many people that would’ve been okay sharing a house with a big, fat, hairy spider, but I really didn’t mind.  So maybe I’m not SUCH a chicken.  And I told him, I really think I did have a snake phobia, and although I still am uncomfortable and creeped out by them, I’m obviously not phobic or I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to do what we did today. 

Are you ready for some pictures?  Proceed with caution!  ;)

Here's the guy with the big boa.  Selah isn't usually shy, but she was hiding her face because the guy was talking to her, not because she was afraid of the snake.  This is the one we wound up petting.
This is the same snake.  Her owner dangled her down from his hand like that, and she saw all the people crowding around to look at her, and she stuck her head under his shirt.  Which creeped me out, but I really felt like sticking my head under somebody's shirt when I first saw her too, so the feeling was mutual. 

Here's a lady handing over her 16 year old python to my eager husband.
And here he is showing it to our daughter.  See how happy he looks?  Weirdo.
Of course, she had to touch it.  Little weirdo.
(But before you decide my crew is too strange, keep in mind a lady came up, scooped this snake out of Brad's hands, and talked baby talk to it.  *IwillnotjudgeIwillnotjudgeIwillnotjudge*)
Here's Selah holding a baby bearded dragon.
And here's some full grown bearded dragons.  Seriously, how many pets do you know that can pull off a spiked collar like that?  Aren't they cool?
Korban liked this one.
And here's what creeped me out the most.  Remember when I said that it was mostly people selling exotic pets?
Pre-packaged snakes, as far as the eye could see!  I just kept thinking, what if someone knocks a table over and they get out and go everywhere?!?  *insert full body shudder*
 One of our funniest moments of the day occurred when Korban saw all those little snakes in the clear containers.  He looked them over, and then looked up at us and asked "Are those gummy worms?"  We totally cracked up and the guy selling them said that was one he'd never heard before. 
Ever wonder what a giant toad in a takeout container would look like?  Well, here you go!  Yes, those are toads.  I text my friend Carla this picture, and she thought they were brownies. I've gotta say, the resemblance is striking.  And I don't love frogs, but I felt sorry for these guys, all squished in there like that.  :(
I thought that little turtle was cute, but certainly not $75.00 worth of cute!  Sorry, Mr. Turtle.
I tried to hard to get a picture of my three favorite people under the inflatable snake head, and this one with Korban holding his balloon in front of his face is the best I got.  Strangely enough, the inflatable snake head was the ONLY thing there that Korban was afraid of. 
We did some other fun things, that thankfully did not involve reptiles, and I will post the rest of that at a later date.  I figure I've already given everybody enough to digest for one night.  But today was fun.  Here's to conquering fears, one cheap Groupon event at a time!  ;)

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