For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Aquarium...A Whole New World

My aquarium adventures began Wednesday when I took my younger sister, niece and nephew out to lunch and shopping.  While at lunch Shay gave Marcus and Katie permission to get some fish so they asked me if I would take them to Walmart.   I bought them 3 fish because I was going to let each of them have one and I wanted to put one in the tank so they could call it Gigi.  We bought different colors so that if one died (yeah, we didn't have too much faith in our ability to care for fish) we would know whose it was.  Marcus bought a starter tank and other supplies.

Thursday after work I decided I really wanted an aquarium.  I went by and got Marcus and Katie so they could go with me.  We went to Walmart and I bought a 5 gallon starter tank with some sample supplies, 6 lbs of rainbow gravel, some colorful plants, food and 5 fish.  I wanted different types/colors so that I could name them and keep up with them.  I got 2 Neon GloFish; the Green was Ping and the Pink, Pong.  I got 2 Guppies; the larger one with a Cheetah tail is Liberty and the smaller one is Patriot and I got a Tiger Barb and to be funny I named it Turtle because that is the nickname I gave my preacher's wife.  

We stopped at Sonic for milkshakes and then headed to my house to set up the aquarium.  Okay, first of all, I am clinically diagnosed OCD and my obsessive compulsive behaviors are not safety or health related but rather mine are all about cleanliness, organization, schedule and routine.  I say this because if I was at home setting up the aquarium by myself I would have been doing it all by the book but with the kids there we were all doing various tasks and trying to get it all done.  Hindsight's 20/20 and less than 48 hours later I have already learned from some mistakes.

Marcus supposedly installed the power filter/pump and since it was pumping the water I thought it worked.  I was a bit frustrated to see tiny bubbles that looked like dust all over the glass but thought that was just the water stabilizing.  Because my starter kit only had sample packages I headed to Petsmart to buy some more supplies and while there I decided to get 2 more fish because my favorite number is 7 and in the Bible it means perfect and complete so I thought it would be cool to have 7 in the tank because it would be "complete."  I chose a GloGreen Tetra and named it Green Tea and I got a Neon Blue Glofish and named it Blueberry.  The employee that helped me said I could mix my fish as long as they were all Tropicals and as long as I didn't have a long-tailed fish because of my Tiger Barb.

Throughout the evening I had the best time watching the fish swim and play.  Within an hour or so I had figured out some the personalities and who liked who, where they liked to swim, etc.  

Pong wouldn't swim...he merely drifted across the surface.  I thought he was just timid due to new surroundings but would acclimate.  His brother Ping was all around the aquarium as were the rest of them.  Turtle (Tiger Barb) had a fascination with the Tuna tablet that I stuck to the glass.  He would circle around it in a frenzy, zoom off and come back.  Green Tea (Tetra) loved Turtle and would either follow him everywhere or would linger inside the castle.  Liberty, my Cheetah-tailed Guppy was all over the tank.  We were picking and saying she should have been an Olympic swimmer.  The funniest thing that night was what happened to Blueberry.

Blueberry, the blue GloFish had a fascination with the ripples from the filter.  She would literally get right within the walls of the ripple like she was in a jacuzzi and she would go in and out, spin around like a whirlpool, drift away and return for more fun.  Well, she continued to do this and keep in mind I am sitting on the floor and watching these fish like I would a movie.  Blueberry gets into the whirlpool and I hear this squeak and she is gone!  She has gotten sucked up by the filter, no lie!  I thought I was going to cry because I was going to lose my first fish but then poof...she was spit out and there she was floating near the ripples.  It was quite funny because she hovered on the outer parameter of the whirlpool like she dared to go back into that thing.  Finally, she realized she needed to swim deeper to get away from the current and to get to the other side.

Friday morning I wake up and go to tank to feed them.  I should have 7 fish but I can only account for 6.  I take a closer look and realize Pong (the slow pink Neon) is missing.  Well, I thought maybe because he wouldn't swim he got sucked up into the filter.  Then I noticed him belly up in a pink plant.  I didn't know there was a 3-day refund policy on fish from Walmart so I had my first burial at sea and flushed him down the toilet in the guest room.  I won't be using that bathroom for a while! Remember the turtle on "Growing Pains?"

I was happy to see all the dust-like bubbles had cleared on the glass and the water was as clear as bottled water.  Nice, all is clean and calm again in my OCD world.

After work I headed back to Walmart to replace Pong.  I chalked his death up to him already being sick since he wouldn't swim.  While there I saw a beautiful Purple Tetra so I got another pink Neon and the Tetra.  The lady even let me "fish" for my own fish so I could get the ones I wanted.  I took home Pongo and Grape Ape.  I now had 8 fish...In the Bible 7 means perfect and complete and 8 means new beginnings, so it was a new day dawning for me and my aquarium!

Got home and aquarium was a little hazy...was told that was because a fish died and the Ph balance was off.  This morning I woke up bright and early to check on my fish.  Well, 2 were dead!  Ping, Pong's brother and my beautiful Grape Ape.  The water had a slight stench and was not green but very cloudy.  This time I put deadfish in Ziploc bag and I headed to Walmart and got a refund; not going to replace any more fish 'til I figure out what's killing them.  I thought it could be my well water so I took a small sample to Petsmart.

A guy at Petsmart tested the Ph levels and "Smartboy" said that the levels were high enough to be stressful for fish.  What did that mean in layman's terms?  My tank had a higher concentration of Nitrite (not Nitrate) and ammonia.  Smartboy said that could be because of fish dying.  He told me to buy a gravel vacuum and empty about 50-75% of the water, pretreat the same amount of water and fill tank again.  He also told me that I should have washed all decorations, plants and gravel with warm water to rid them of dust and debris before placing them in aquarium and that I should have let the tank full of water sit for at least 24 hours to stabilize the water before adding the fish.  I'm beginning to see several important factors that may have led to the early demise of my precious fish.

So, I get home and much to my amazement I was able to operate the gravel vac without much difficulty.  But then I couldn't get the filter pump to work.  I took filter apart and much to my dismay I realized Marcus didn't put the filter in the box when he installed the pump.  He thought the filter in the starter kit was an extra one.  I guess we both assumed the pump would have the first filter in it.  So, now I'm wondering if that may have been my main problem.  Without the filter there was nothing removing the waste, ammonia, etc. from the water.  The pump was only recycling the water from pump to tank.  So, I get the filter in place but then can't get the pump to work.  I'm at my wits end, bag it all up and head back to Walmart.  They allow me to get a new pump.

I get home and still can't get the new pump to work and by the way: The pump did have filter installed when it was purchased as just a pump.  I guess in the starter kit they want you to learn how to install the filter so they don't have it in the pump box.  Well, every time I plugged it in I got a grinding sound.  So, I googled this problem and duh...I didn't know to fill the pump with water so that it can prime itself.  Marcus obviously did that with the first pump.  Prime pump and all is well.  Hopefully in the day or so I will see a difference in the water quality.

The fish are now swimming deeper since the tank has been cleaned and it seems like the pump isn't producing as strong a ripple effect now that the filter is in the box.  

This is all a learning experience for me.  I'm the teacher to a school of fish.  Update on my students:
  • Blueberry still loves to play in the whirlpool and is zipping around the tank.
  • Green Tea and Turtle still follow closely beside each other.
  • Pongo harasses Liberty.  I'm wondering if he has a fascination with her tail.
  • Patriot is the smallest and very calm...she swims around but not in a fast-paced motion.
  • Pongo, Turtle, Green Tea and Liberty all love to swim at the bottom.
  • I added a Julii Cory Catfish named Black Magic on Aug. 18th and he zips all over the place!
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know another part of my world.  I have always been known as the little girl in a bubble.  Well, now I'm in a whole new world as my bubble has extended to the realms of a fish tank.  The fish produce a very calming effect as I watch them swim around and get to know them.  It may seem funny that I can hone in on their personalities but I'm a deep thinker and that's just me.  

Written in memory of:
Pong (August 9-10th)
Ping (August 9-11th)
Grape Ape (August 10-11th)
Pongo (August 10-11th)
Blueberry (August 9-12th)
Turtle (August 9-12th) 
Liberty (August 9-16th)
Patriot (August 9-19th) 
Itty Bitty (September 2-7th)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Another Memory...Another Moment To Live, Love and Laugh

I am all about making and preserving memories.  If my friends or family are doing something special I am always quick to tell them to take a lot of pictures and to make some precious memories.  I am probably the memory keeper for my family.  I am usually the one taking more pictures than you can ever imagine.  I have also kept a diary since I was a little girl and with the evolution of technology I am now able to share some my special moments with others.

Friday I called my sister to see if she wanted to have lunch and do some shopping.  She has three children and only the middle child was with her.  Marcus just turned 18 July 29th.  While at soccer camp last week he broke and/or fractured his foot and ankle in five different places so he was bummed out because he was in an aircast and had to stay off his feet.  He told me if I came by to get them he would treat me to lunch.

We started our day at Harbor Inn.  I don't eat seafood but they have really good salads and I love their ranch dressing.  Then we did some shopping and my sister bought me some ceramic signs/plaques for my doll/music room.

Marcus wanted to stay the night and I told him he could but he would have to go home early in the morning because I was going to Atlanta.  He was okay with that because since Jonathan and Katie weren't home he decided he would hang out with me.  We went to see the movie "Battleship," which was really good but I had no idea it was a sci-fi movie.  Then we came home and baked brownies because that is what Marcus said he would eat for breakfast.

Saturday morning came too quick.  5, 6, 7, and 8:00 don't come twice in my day on Saturday and Sundays but yesterday it did.  Luckily for me Marcus isn't a difficult person to wake up.  We were at his house by 6:30 and I was on the way to Atlanta by 7 to meet up with Raegan and Brandon.

They had moved to Miami earlier this summer but Brandon had some business to take care of and keeping with tradition Raegan accompanied him so that she and I could spend a day shopping and having fun!  Our annual trip has us hanging out at Underground Atlanta, Lenox Square and Neiman Marcus.  If  you haven't done this it's an experience of a lifetime.  Lenox Square is Atlanta's oldest and largest shopping mall and is home to Neiman Marcus.  I don't do much shopping but I love spending time with friends and now that Raegan has moved I will take what time I can.

Raegan and I had the time of our lives.  We had a nice lunch at the Neiman Marcus Cafe and I was able to pick up a few things for Christmas.   After Neiman Marcus we headed to Phipps Plaza becauseRaegan wanted to shop at Lord and Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.  We went to Tiffany's because I just wanted to say I had been.   We made a day of it.  Raegan said we were the "Uptown girls shopping in an underground world."  And for posterity sake we visited the Gateway To The Olympics park, home of the '96 Olympics, which I was fortunate enough to attend.

Raegan and I didn't set out to spend a lot of money although we did get quite a bit accomplished.  It was two friends hanging out and having fun...recapturing some the moments that we shared during 18 years of friendship.  We took a stroll down memory lane and laughed about so many things and we shed a few tears with those memories.  Brandon met up with us for dinner and of course, he chose Planet Hollywood.  He makes it a point to visit the restaurant every time he's in Atlanta so off we went to relive some Hollywood moments.

Atlanta is about 3 1/2 hours from my home but well worth it and when you have a little speed demon driving she tends to get there quicker!  It was a long day but well worth it.  I hadn't seen Raegan since she moved to Miami and I don't know when I will see her again so I took advantage of the time we were given.  I probably spent way too much money and I definitely ate way too much but do I have regrets?  No!  Because this isn't a regular thing for me and I knew it was one of those moments in time that doesn't come around that often.

You know that's how it is with the Christian faith.  God doesn't promise you tomorrow.  You may live for another 50 years or God may call you home while you sleep this week.  Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.  Make every moment count.  Like the Romans say, "Carpe diem...seize the day!"  Is there someone you need to call, someone you need to share the gospel with, a friend or family member you need to contact and make things right?  Do the people you surround yourself with know that you love them?  Never miss an opportunity to tell someone thanks or I love you because it may be your last.  I'm only affectionate with a handful of people but whenever we are together I will hug them and tell them I love them.

This weekend will go down in my journal as a special time spent with family and friends and I will be forever grateful to the Lord for giving me those opportunities.  I hope that each and every one of you get to make some special memories this week and if you want, come back and share them with me!

Take care and God bless!