So, yeah. I'm not allowed to look at our fish tank anymore.

Yeah, that may require a bit of back story.

My mom, for her birthday, got herself a giant, fifty-six gallon fish tank. It's beautiful. It's got some roman-esque decorations and a weird little Temple of Zeus in there, a bunch of plants –both live and plastic. It's fantastic. So, naturally, we filled it with fish.

Things go fine for the first couple months, before I notice one of the betas was looking pretty sickly. Its fins were all jaggy and its usually blue coloring was off. I mentioned this.

Within the week, it was dead, along with a couple guppies and an angelfish.

So we figure it was some sort of fin rot or fungus or something and put in some medicine for the remaining fish. They're right as rain within the next week, and Mom decides that you know what we could use? More fish. I go with her because- hey, fish! I like fish.

We pick up a little red-tailed shark, another angelfish, a sucker fish and a few more I-don't-remember-what-they-ares.

When we got home, I noticed that a couple of the new ones were looking a bit sickly. I told her. She shrugged it off and said that hopefully they wouldn't die, but worst case scenario, we'd just go back and get a refund. (PetSmart gives out refunds/trade-ins for dead pets. That's both cool, and worrying). Of course a couple were dead by the next day and we went to get more. Eventually, after a few trials and errors that had us on a first name basis with a couple PetSmart employees, we finally managed to reach a tank-equilibrium and everything went smoothly for a month.

Then the red-tailed shark (who had gotten pretty damned big) decided to commit fishy suicide and leap out of the tank for no particular reason.

I warned Mom not to replace him. "We've got enough fish," I said. "If you add in another, they'll just start dropping off dead again like before."

Of course, my sage advice went unheeded, and along with another shark, we got two more sucker fish, a few grombie thingumies, and a few more whatchamacallits.

"If you put those in there," I said, "Half of them will be dead by morning."

Were they dead? Of course they were dead. There's a reason PetSmart has that whole 'three day warranty" on small pets.

We let it be, after that. For another couple months, we were perfectly happy with out little giant fish tank.

Then last week, Mom decided the tank looked a little on the empty side. She came home with a red-tailed shark. Cute little fella.

"Mom, that's a dead fish swimming."

"Zephronias," she said, placing the bagged fish into the tank to float, "He's fine. It's a perfectly healthy fish. I got him over at that other PetSmart. Look, he's perfectly fine."

I looked. He did seem like a happy little guy.

"Then the old one will be dead tomorrow."

"If it is, I'll give you ten dollars."

Later on, we let the new guy out and he and the old red tail started hanging out. Not fighting, there was no territorial nipping, they just swam around getting along swimmingly. It looked like the old one was actually showing the new guy around. It looked like this time, maybe, the karma lord of fish tank equilibrium would forgo his usual smiting habit and let the fish live. It was only one little fish, right? No need to balance death's books, right?

Yeah. The old red tail was dead in the morning.

We aren't going to replace him.

I didn't get ten dollars.

Somehow, my mother has come to the conclusion all the fish-deaths were my fault.
"You thought bad thoughts at them!" she says. "You jinxed them."

So now I'm not allowed to look at our fish tank. I'm not allowed to mention our fish tank. I'm not allowed to compliment or admire our fish tank.

Yesterday, I noticed one of the little sucker fish was looking a bit off color. I didn't mention it. He was dead this morning, but I flushed him before she noticed. It's a big tank, she probably won't notice.

Dammit, I like fish!

Soft socks.

Downtown was having a big sale in our little town. We're not spending much for the Season of Spending and avoided the Friday sales entirely, but the IT and I went downtown after I picked her up from synchronized swimming practice.

A clothes store was having a 20% off sale and was busy. The only things that I liked were way too far from the price range, but the IT and I did look at the socks. I bought a pair of cashmere blend socks last month.

I've danced swing and jitterbug for over 20 years and work can be long hours on my feet. I buy good shoes but my feet often hurt and get tired. That is the joint that is starting to have some arthritis, the metacarpo-phalangeal joint. I automatically block pain when I'm working. I don't listen to it. On the weekend or with time off, I start noticing. I relax and drop my guard. The nerves signals start to come through.

When we went from dictating in the hospital clinics to full time electronic medical records, my shoulders seized up. I could hardly move. The change from dictating and writing for 10 hours a day to hauling around a weird laptop and trying to understand the program put me into a mixture of astonishment, panic and rage. We had eight hours of training and went live in all the clinics. None of us except the geeky computer doctors who'd picked the system understood it and we understood way less than they'd started with, an entire year ago.

The nurses had tiny half size piplapsqueaktops. The keyboards were teeny. Their hands cramped up.

We all filed for Workman's Comp. I went to physical therapy. Max would start working on my shoulders, which were like marble. Rock. Granite. "Does it hurt?" he'd say.

"No," I'd say. I couldn't feel it at all.

He would work for a while. Hot towels. Massage. Exercise. The nerves would wake up.

"Now it hurts," I would say, flinching. The nerves would go from frozen to white hot. Wires coursing from my neck and shoulders up in to my brain. He would wrap me in the ultrasound and towels and leave me. I would go from white hot wired slowly slowly to relaxed. Don't fight it. Just sit there and let the pain roll through like waves. I learned how to hold my neck and my shoulders differently. How to relax even when the computer would not let me take care of my patient, even when I was fighting to get it to let me record a visit, order a lab, find what I needed. I learned.

I bought the cashmere blend socks and wore them. My feet are happy in them. The socks are so soft. My feet feel blessed and loved and cradled.

The IT and I went to another store, a camping store, looked at more socks. We figured out her adult size. We went back to the sale store.

This time I bought another cashemere blend pair of socks. Three pairs of socks for the IT. And one pair of all cashmere, purple, for me, the most expensive socks I've ever bought.

Soft socks. They cradle my feet, downy. Like a mother bird lining her nest with the softest down, for the eggs, for the precious ones, for the babies. My feet are so surprised. "Us?" they say "You are taking care of us?"

I want everyone to have something that makes them feel as cared for as my soft socks.

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