I have a bad habit of first saying “no” to new ideas or suggestions. I might come around later, doing a 180 degree turn that surprises everyone, but I start from “no,” which makes getting to “yes” a much longer trip. It isn’t that I’m not adventurous or am not interested in new ideas. It is more a result of being a planner and organizer. Spontaneity and change are not easy traits for those of us who keep a tightly-scheduled datebook in our heads.
But this was all before we got Blazer.
At the beginning of the school year, my friend Jara asked me in passing if she could get my daughter Clara a frog. Clara is crazy about frogs and receives quite a bit of frog memorabilia, which is rapidly filling her room. But what was one more stuffed animal, so I said, “Sure.”
Jara’s eyes widened with disbelief, “Really? I can get Clara a frog. You mean it?”
“Er, sure.” I was a little confused by her reaction. I mean, I know I’m the strictest mom on the block, but I’m not so unyielding that I wouldn’t let my daughter receive a little gift.
Jara smiled broadly and clapped her hands together. “I’m so excited! Clara will love it. Let’s keep it a surprise. I’ll pick it up tomorrow and give it to her after school.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. Jara is a bright, happy spirit, but even so, her excitement seemed a little over the top.
“I’ll get a little cage. I think they are pretty hardy so you won’t even need a heat lamp,” she chirped happily. “They really aren’t supposed to be any trouble at all.”
The dime finally dropped. “You mean you want to get her a REAL frog?” I screeched.
Jara froze. “Actually, a Fire-Bellied Toad. They’re really cute.”
“Stephen and I have a No Reptile, No Rodent Rule,” I reminded her. “I’m pretty sure that covers amphibians.”
Jara’s face fell. “You already said yes,” she pointed out.
I had. I had said “yes” instead of “no.” And for some inane reason, I found it impossible to backtrack.
The next afternoon, Jara handed Clara a small glass cage with a very small, brightly-colored frog. She handed me a paper cup filled with live crickets. Clara squealed with delight. As she danced a little jig in the parking lot, she asked Jara in disbelief, “Did my mom really say this was all right?”
That night, while our new frog adjusted to his surroundings, Clara printed off reams of information about Fire-Bellied Toads. She informed us that even though Fire-Bellied Toads are called toads, they are really frogs. And that they can live up to thirty years in captivity. My husband and I looked at each other. The damn frog might outlive us.
Clara read on, “Fire-Bellied toads need to live in an environment that is 1/2 water and has a number of hiding spots.”
I looked at our frog, sitting in a bare cage with just a tiny bowl of water. Before I knew it, I was ordering a vivarium from Amazon even though a few moments earlier I hadn’t known what a vivarium was. But thirty years is a long time. We had a responsibility to make sure our frog was comfortable. Stephen looked at the price and declared it a frog condo. Clara pitched in all her allowance money.
Needless to say, the frog, who Clara named Blazer for his vibrant red and black patterned belly, grew on me. I set the thermostat higher at night because this species of frog can’t survive below temperatures of sixty degrees. I hire someone to change his water bowls when we go out of town so they don’t become “toxic.” I even used the original glass cage as a habitat for live crickets, who require more care than the frog.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve fallen hard for Blazer. The first thing I do each morning is remove the cover from Blazer’s condo and check to make sure he’s still alive. I fret over whether or not he is getting enough crickets or if the humidity level is high enough in his cage. I swing by several times a day just to say “Hi” and to see what he’s doing.
All in all, Blazer has turned out to be a good “yes,” even though I didn’t know what I was agreeing to. I had to wonder: Were my knee-jerk “nos” causing me to miss out on other good opportunities? Concerned, I began to make a conscious effort to convert my “nos” into “yeses” whenever possible.
When Stephen proposed we convert a storage cabinet into a bookshelf, I caught a “no” between my teeth, and said that I would find somewhere else to house the six shelves of odds and ends currently crammed in that space. When my oldest daughter wanted to try snowboarding, I helped her lobby her skis-only father for permission. When my friend suggested a baked kale recipe, I gave it a try even though kale is one of those foods that scares me a little. The kale chips turned out to be so delicious I baked up three more batches that day.
All those “yeses” felt so wonderful that I began to reconsider some of my previous “nos.” Maybe I should consider that trip my mother wants to take. Perhaps it would be fun to let the girls get feathers in their hair. And maybe I should listen to my friend Paige and explore other ways of publishing my novel.
I consulted with Blazer.
“Blazer, what do you think? Should I publish my young adult novel as an ebook when I get it done?”
Blazer sat still as a stone in his water bowl. I took that as a sign of approval.
But just to be clear, I haven’t gone completely overboard. Not all “nos” need to become “yeses.”
At dinner the other night when the kids tried to convince me to adopt a couple of free goats that “are just the cutest little goats ever,” I shook my head. “Absolutely not.”
My husband smiled mischievously from the other end of the table. “Are you sure? Look how much you love Blazer. Who knows, maybe you could learn to love a couple of goats too.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “No. No goats.”
He added some more kale to his plate. “In that case, how about some chickens?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes, but didn’t answer. I’m not going to say “no” . . . just in case.