Inside a Writer’s Life: My Sugar Glider

For the first time in a while, I don’t have to hide the fact that I have an exotic pet. I thought I’d celebrate that fact with a post to talk about my experiences keeping a Author Ashley Crookham sugar glider Elske sugar glider.

In October 2011, my mother decided to get a sugar glider. She called to tell me about them and enthused that I would enjoy owning one too. Off to the store I went, never suspecting that I would be the only one of us who would go through with it. I called to tell her the good news. We were in the same boat. We could pet sit for each other. Our sugar babies could grow up together.

“What did you name yours?” I asked.

“Oh, I changed my mind.”

I paused. “That’s a strange name.”

To start you need one or two animals, a cage, heat rock, sugar glider pellet food, and a bonding pouch you wear around your neck. The pouch zips up to ensure your new fury baby doesn’t escape during the first few months while you love it and it struggles to get away from you.

 

When I tell people my pet’s name, they usually think I mean “Alice”. I correct them, then they ask how I came up with “Elske”.

“It came from a book.”

“What’s the book called?”

“Elske.”

(If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Voigt, now you know one series of hers I recommend.)

 

The first weeks were rough. Sugar gliders don’t have many defenses but a loud chiggering noise is one of them. Beata beata beata. It still makes me jump. Grabbing her from her warm nest of fleece and shoving her into the pouch while she holds on with opposable thumbs feels a bit rude.

Sugar gliders are nocturnal, marsupials, and, in my opinion, cuter as adults than they are as joeys. They have long tails and skin between their limbs that helps them glide from a high place to a lower place. They eat insects in the wild and enjoy sweet foods when they can find them. In captivity, they can live 12-15 years.

Eventually she grew comfortable with me. She stays in her cage when she’s not in a pouch, but I do let her play. I can stuff a blanket under the crack below the door and she explores the room while I write. She climbs around me, especially near my neck and ear. She even comes when I call her name, although if she’s having too much fun she might run away when I try to scoop her up. You must keep sugar gliders away from water. They cannot swim. The toilet lid is always down when she’s out.

She travels well. While she’s in the pouch she gets an apple slice to munch on for food and liquid. She sleeps during the day so she’s very docile when I take her places. When I’m in a good spot, I let her on the ground to pee or poop (she lets me know she has needs when she gets squirmy). Afterwards, she jumps back on me and crawls right into her bag. I’ve taken her to work with me and she does great all day.

 

Elske the sugar glider’s cage

Over the seven years we’ve been together, I’ve added to her things. Barrels of monkeys, a quiet running wheel, pouches I have sewn or hand tied, fuzzy bags. I have a hamster cage I use when we’re moving and when I’m cleaning her cage.

Elske has been to multiple jobs, parties, volunteering at a LTC facility, and even writers group meetings. People who don’t like mice tend to react negatively. People who like soft tiny animals say they will get one.

Then again, so did my Mom.

Elske the sugar glider
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Co-Authoring

One day a member of my writers group shared a sad story about a beloved pet. The symptoms she experienced, shared by many humans and for unknown reasons, seemed like an intriguing story idea to me.

My fellow writer and I began to flesh it out. “What ifs” sprung up, setting molded around it, and we each envisioned a character from which to view our fictional world. We decided to co-write a story. This is what I have learned about the process so far:

  1. You must agree on how quickly you want the story to come together. In our case, we are not rushing each other in any way. We both have other projects going on and this story is one we can come back to only when we choose to.
  2. You must agree on how much of the story each writer contributes. In our case, we are taking turns with chapters.
  3. You must be flexible. One new idea can mean a lot of work to edit what has already been written. When we agree to go a different way with the story, we must both go back to keep the information consistent.

I’ve enjoyed seeing our story come together from two writers with very different styles and ideas. This might be a long-term work but we will both be proud when it is complete.

 

What have your experiences been with co-authoring?

 

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library front window
Kurt’s actual typewriter

I could not be so close to a museum for Kurt Vonnegut and not take a visit. In a college ethics class, I did my final project on his secular humanist beliefs. He is someone I would have been lucky to know. I read Slaughterhouse Five before the short trip into Indianapolis which I believe adds much to the understanding of the displays in his Memorial Library. To see his struggles as an author, successes in his dreams, personal challenges, and sparks of creativity in person were comforting and inspiring.

Author Ashley Crookham in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
replica of Kurt’s study

 

Have you visited any good museums dedicated to authors or writing?

Indiana

When I found out I had a chance to visit Indiana, I needed to look on the map to see how to get there. I began to research fun things to do. For this I use Pinterest and  http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/.

Author Ashley Crookham wall map

I enjoyed my time there, including a trip to a not-for-profit coffee shop where I was able to sit and catch up on my journals.

Author Ashley Crookham cold brew coffee

Now that I know I will be moving to this state, there are other things I would like to find out. How does cost of living compare, for example? If I could visit again I would go to the local library, the local gym, and the local grocery store. Online I have researched things like Meetup groups (including writers’ groups) available to me to join. I’ve added Parks and Recreation newsletters to my e-mail subscriptions. So far things look promising.Author Ashley Crookham gas sign

What considerations do you make when moving to a new place?

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Kwerky Review

 

While editing “Elaty Riaf”, I used the Querkywriter keyboard someone had given to me as a gift. Here are my observations:

Positives:

  1. attractive
  2. keys make a nice clacking sound
  3. easy to use wirelessly with your computer
  4. you can sit things in the ledge at the top (such as photos to keep you motivated or notes to keep you oriented)
  5. reminds me of typing on my mother’s old typewriter as a child

Negatives:

  1. a bit high up for my wrists to sit comfortably
  2. the shift button got stuck constantly, making edits more laborious
  3. numbers are along the top only

Overall, I would not have bought this for myself and I prefer to use a wider, lower, quieter keyboard. The faulty shift key was not compensated for by the attractive typewriter appearance. I am glad I got a chance to make an informed decision about this product.

Have you used this before? Something similar? What did you think?

Coffee & Tea

Now that the Western Maryland Writers Group 2016 Anthology is out, I have returned to editing Gender Chasm.

When I’m working I like to have a beverage at the desk with me so I thought I’d spend one post discussing my favorite ways to brew and steep.Author Ashley Crookham coffee station

Hot Coffee. Even when I’m not restricted in my caffeine consumption, I tend to use a few scoops of decaf in with my flavored grounds. My favorites are chocolate, hazelnut, and Scottish grog.

Author Ashley Crookham hanging mugs

Old Coffee. I tend to make a pot of coffee, but only drink one cup. The rest I put in a reusable mug and stick it in the fridge for the next day(s).

Cold Brewed Coffee. Overnight in coffee sock. So worth the wait. Any flavor is clarified and crisp.

Author Ashley Crookham coffee sockHot Tea. I pour water into the mug, then dump that amount into my stove kettle. I use tea bags or loose leaf tea in my hanging tea man. My favorites are Celestial’s tension tamer and Yogi’s bedtime.Author Ashley Crookham hanging tea man

 

Cold Brewed Tea. Insert into filter, screw onto a mason jar, and you get tea to take to work the next day.

Author Ashley Crookham tea drawersI drink all of these black. (Well, as long as I’m not meeting old friends at an English tea shop where milk and outstretched pinkies are required.) Coffee first thing in the mornings, tea is for when I get home from work.

 

What do you like for coffee and tea? Is anyone out there able to live without both?

 

Divorce

Note: The Western Maryland Writers Group Fairy Tale Anthology with the “Elaty Riaf” short story is out. Get it in print, or on your kindle.

Author Ashley Crookham sunray

We began dating 11/23/2005. I was still a teenage. We got married, got separated. Our divorce came through exactly 11 years later.

 

Since my short story “Elaty Riaf” dealt with this subject, I thought I’d write a brief post about my experience.

 

Divorce is the abortion of marriage. It’s a choice and will cause you to doubt yourself. There is power in the choice you may wish you didn’t have.

For us the cause was that he needed to be on his own, and, afterwards, I needed to not take him back. We both could have tried harder to find another way. But we failed. Together.

 

There are few comparable situations in which you have the chance to discover so much about you. The uncertainty of the future, the depth of pain from the past, what you are capable of, what you don’t want to endure.

 

What I’ve learned is that you should not be with someone who comes to you looking for something, but instead commit yourself to someone who found something in you.

 

Love, Ashley (Crookham)