When You See a Rock Coming, It Hurts Less

Getting ready to aquascape

Rock

For those of you who aren’t reefers, the backbone of most reef tanks is live rock.  Sounds crazy, I know.  Live rock (and sand) serves as the biological filter in a tank, it’s what coral reefs are formed from–basically the skeletons of long dead corals.  The rock itself isn’t live, but the beneficial bacteria and microscopic organisms that live in it are.  It’s also very expensive.  For this tank, I chose to go with reef rock that isn’t live, but “dry.” All those nooks and crannies in the rock are helpful, providing more surface area for the bacteria to colonize. It will take longer for the tank to cycle and be ready for livestock, but it’s a much more budget friendly option, and I will “seed” the dry rock with just a few pounds of live rock and many pounds of live sand.

I ordered 50 pounds of this rock, expected it to arrive today.  Surprise! It came a day early. My intercom phone rang yesterday, the guard telling me I should come get my package.  Of course this happened after my back was humming from doing a few loads of laundry, and right before I had to leave to pick the girl up from school.  The gloom and rain of the day just added that extra something. I assumed it was a small package, yanno, the two ounce heater, maybe the hose for siphoning water.  This guard is getting up there in years, and tends to get a little ummm, stressed, if you don’t come and take your packages right. now. I thought my back was humming after laundry? Bwahahaha!  I couldn’t even look at the fucking box to open it until this morning.  But now I have, and I had to immediately begin taking pictures because I’m a geek.

I spent last night and this morning thinking about the tank build and my writing.  Both are intense, bring me peace and joy and angst and tears.  Both endeavors I can and do lose hours in, often walking away feeling upside down and inside out. And I wondered, should I not have started this tank? I have people who seem to genuinely love my writing, several of whom have encouraged me to self publish.  I could have put the money I’m putting into the tank into self pubbing Astonishing.  Except it wouldn’t be enough.  I write, and I self-edit what I write, but I’m no editor.  I’m also not a graphic artist, able to design a book cover.  Nor a computer savvy gal, able to convert the file into something readable on Kindle or Nook. Nor a marketing expert, able to get it out there.  All things that need to happen if you’re going to self publish.  If I’m ever published, trade or self, I want it done well.

It’s funny.  Astonishing is magical realism, not a genre that’s popular or clearly defined in the adult market.  Seems like many have their own definition and expectations for it.  Maybe I should define it as written surrealism, instead of magical realism.  Or hyperrealism, based on responses I get in regards to my characters, based on those ordinary people we walk past every day, who are extraordinary in the impact they have on each of us, shaping our lives.  That’s what I love, whether I’m writing, reading, or reefing. Those small moments, how every creature–regardless of how many celled–affects every other around them, causing growth or a crash, it almost doesn’t matter.

Fail

Oh, the laundry basket

Oh, the laundry basket

I should be doing laundry today. The plan was to do laundry today.  Dragged Husband to the store yesterday for laundry detergent so I could do laundry today.  The store didn’t have the brand/type I like, I told myself not to be an idiot and chose something else.  And yet, see my basket, perched on top of the full hamper, filled with…not laundry.  Behind it, my file cabinet, filled with school stuff from the kids, medical info, and old bits of manuscripts, printouts of agent info, ancient rejection letters.

The good part of this move was that it kept me too busy to think for a bit.  And by think, I mean obsessing about the lack of agent responses on my manuscript.  I told myself if I hadn’t heard anything by the time we were moved in, it was okay.  I’m still in a bigger better space, I still have a brand new dishwasher I’m infatuated with, I still have my own, personal workspace with a desk, I still wrote a novel I’m proud of.  If I don’t receive any offers, so be it, right? This end is out of my control. So what if I never make a dollar from my writing?  I’m sure as hell not alone in that.  I will not sit at my new desk and wonder what the point of having it is.  I’ll focus on my new space, I’ll continue to fix it up, I’ll keep blogging, I’ll continue planning my tank, I’ll stay on top of the laundry.

Ahem.

Just before sunrise.

Just before sunrise.

And Then This Happened

Recuperating, settling in, where do the days go?  Happy Friday, Fringelings!

Welcome to my future beach house in a glass box.  Remember that spot I said I was planning for a new tank? Fatigue came over last week, looked at it, and dubbed it the interrogation corner.  He could have a point.

Where were you, on the night of the 25th?!

Where were you, on the night of the 25th?!

I will admit to being amused by the double take done by every person who’s walked into the apartment.  I made a game of guessing a) if they would stop and stare or keep glancing at it, and b) how long before they broke down and asked.  Hard to tell from this angle, but the tiled area is 4′ x 5′.  Alas, I don’t get much company so the game lost its charm after a week.

Allow me to present the new future fringie reef.

Eventually this will be 80 gallons of sexy reefing goodness.

Eventually this will be 80 gallons of sexy reefing goodness.

Even better, it’s in a prime viewing spot, easily watched from the couch and I can see it from my desk–though not so close as to be distracting when I’m trying to write.  Assuming, of course, the rest of life settles down enough for me to write again.   My desk.  Have I mentioned that 100 times yet?  It may not be a room of my own, but it feels pretty close.

A desk that isn't my lap!

A desk that isn’t my lap!

From this point on it will be slow going, for budgetary reasons and in the interests of good husbandry.  The first commandment of reefing, “Nothing good happens fast in a reef tank.”

In case you’re wondering, poor Little Incredibly Stupid Dog hasn’t quite settled in yet.  She’s still nervous, afraid of every new sound.  Just breaks my heart, seeing how anxious she is.

I'd like to share her level of anxiety.  Oh, and don't tell Husband she's on the couch.

I’d like to share her level of anxiety. Oh, and don’t tell Husband she’s on the couch.

What’s new for you?

Why Walk When You Can Crawl

Sculpture and quote by Nerd Child, 1st grade

Sculpture and quote by Nerd Child, 1st grade

Change the he to she and yup, that’s Mrs Fringe. Proof that Nerd Child was able to predict the future.

This move has not gone smoothly.  In fact, I can say without hesitation this has been the most disorganized, chaotic, and s-l-o-w move I’ve ever made–and I’ve made many.

First there was the realization I was living in a clown car.  Seriously, we had ten times the amount of shit we should have been able to fit in the last apartment.  Then there was the fact that every time I lifted a hefty bag or moved a box, my back would cry.  And then the kicker, an early flu/virus season.  Art Child got sick, and then I caught it.  The first day I was sick, I happened to have a meeting with Art Child’s teachers. “Sick while moving? Oh no.” “No worries, I have a strong immune system, never more than a nuisance head cold.”  Mmm hmm.  What’s that about famous last words?  By the following night, I had 102° fever.  I’m still not completely recovered, but no one else has gotten sick, so I’m not contagious, and I am improving.  What I don’t have is stamina.  Yanno, that trait needed to pack, move, and unpack.

We have been staying in the new apartment for the last six nights, but still have some miscellaneous crud to move up here, and then turn in the keys to the old apartment.  Every morning I think, we should be able to knock this out by the end of the day, and every afternoon, round about noon, I think, oh-my-gawd-I’m-dying-I-can’t-do-one-more-thing.  A model of efficiency, I tell ya.

The most welcome sight in the world.

The most welcome sight in the world.

Above, the saving grace.  Big boy sneakers.  My godson has come the last couple of weekends, to help with heavy lifting, shlepping, and bringing bags o’ crud to the basement.  Man Child, bless his Herculean heart, also came last week. He took two days off from school to help sort and pack, and then did the majority of the heavy furniture lifting and moving.  Mr and Mrs Smitholini also pitched in, putting up curtains and ceiling fans, general assistance and wondering what the fuck happened to me.

We did get some new pieces of furniture.  I have a desk! A real desk! And it’s all mine, bwahahaha!  And a new kitchen table, because mine didn’t fit in our new, smaller dining space.  Luckily, Husband is in the furniture business, so when we realized the new table wobbles, he was able to fix it in no time.

Maybe I should have gone with my first instinct, a couple of matchbooks.

Maybe I should have gone with my first instinct, a couple of matchbooks.

It is all getting done though.  The first several days were like camping.  The stove wasn’t hooked up, the kitchen sink didn’t work, the dishwasher (hooray!) was sitting in the living room, and did I mention that my refrigerator died the night before we moved it?  The wireless internet didn’t reach the living room (where my desk is), and then it was spotty.  Finally I have a reasonable connection, for the moment I’ll pretend those cables aren’t slithering down the hall floor waiting to trip me.

Sure she looks innocent while she's sleeping.

Sure she looks innocent while she’s sleeping.

Little Incredibly Dumb Dog is very unhappy with the move and attendant chaos, and has been displaying her displeasure by peeing on the floor.  Yesterday she decided it was time to meet the new neighbors. While I was cleaning, she snuck under the divider of our shared terrace, and walked into my next door neighbor’s living room.  My bell rang, she came running and barking as usual.  It was my neighbor, reporting the visit.  Are you kidding me?! We had the same set up downstairs, she never did that.

Almost done.  That’s what I keep saying.  Well, that and knowing I’m getting myself a new tank as soon as possible.  Besides, with the new, higher apartment comes a better view.  This was our first morning, not a bad way to wake up–and no boxes on the horizon.

Somewhere btw 5-5:30am

Somewhere btw 5-5:30am

Sort, Sorting, Sorted

Meeeeemories

Meeeeemories

While it doesn’t quite feel like anything is happening, I am making headway.  The envelopes above.  There were over twenty of them on high shelves that lined my halls, plus dozens of loose rolled preschool paintings and 5 boxes of school and kiddo related stuff.  And cards. Cards from them to us, us to them, Abuela y Abuelo to them, Grandma and Grandpa to them, even one from my grandmother to Man Child. Cards to me and Art Child from several friends met online.  So freaking sweet, I wanted to melt with many of them.

My poor Man Child, we had a couple of years when he was 8,9,10 where it felt like a round robin of funerals and ICU visits.  “Dear Dad, Please don’t die.”  And Nerd Child, from homework on a page of vocabulary sentences, 1st grade, “My aunt was in a ventilator in the hospital.”  There are fun ones, too. From NC’s second grade teacher, a note in response to his first homework of the year, an “about me” letter:  “Dear Nerd Child, Wow, I’ve never met a kid who said Pink Floyd was his favorite band before.” A note from Art Child to me, “Dear Momy, Im sory, Im doo it nw.  Lov lov lov lov”  Whittled down to 5 envelopes, period.  The shelves have been taken down.

And the fridge magnets.  I don’t have any on my fridge in this apartment, it makes the kitchen feel too cluttered when you’re talking about such a small space.  But my last apartment?  Like 90% of other moms, the refrigerator was covered. Magnets holding pictures, drawings, receipts, phone numbers, appointment cards, glucose level logs, seizure logs, med titration schedules.  Ok, maybe not quite like most other moms, but close enough. Apparently I had put all of those into one box when I was moving in here, it got put on a shelf to be dealt with later. Guess it’s later.  In the box was the complete set of these:

IMG_1981

Two sets, actually.  I don’t know if they still sell them, they’re a little electronic learning game, magnetized so the main component and letters can all be stuck on the fridge, and it says the name and sound of the letter when fit into the main piece. The other set does the same, next step, slots for three letter words. Many, many hours playing with these. I was happy to pass them on to the nursery school.

The painting and the floors are close to finished in the new apartment. If all goes well, we’ll be able to really move within the next week or two, hooray!  I spent the day celebrating by cuddling with my sick and sniffling girl, Dr Who on the TV.  Ok, maybe I wasn’t hanging onto the Dr’s every word quite the way Art Child would have liked. Maybe I was cyber window shopping for tank equipment.  I don’t know why I find shopping for curtains and medicine cabinets tedious, but protein skimmers and RO/DI water systems and salt mixes, oh my!  Bestill my shriveled reefing heart.

We saw this sky the other evening, I had to take a photo to share.

IMG_1975

A Good Morning

I see you lurking.

I see you lurking.

True, my eyes are bloodshot as usual, but when I woke up and went out on the terrace, I had a moment.  A really good moment. I could see stars.  Several–the sky was that clear.  And dark.

I was able to do my abbreviated yoga routine without hurting myself, another plus.

I know the summer is really over, because I’m sitting here with hot tea instead of iced.  Still took Art Child to school wearing my shorts and flip-flops, though.

In between yoga and waking the girl, I found this on the table.  He did it.  Husband found the absolute perfect card for my annual 29th birthday celebration.

The new new math. Or, if you prefer, the new middle aged math.

The new new math. Or, if you prefer, the new middle aged math.

I was able to get a decent amount of crap sorting and tossing accomplished yesterday, only 3,493 more piles to go!  Unreal.  How does so much shit accumulate?  I look around and swear I don’t want any of it, I’m going to throw it all away.  Then I start sorting through, and can only convince myself to part with half.  I can weed through the kids old schoolwork.  I don’t really need every test, homework assignment, and nursery school painting.  I can’t throw away Man Child’s 9/11 journal: his eight year old perspective on what happened from a child’s point of view here in New York, in the days and weeks following the attacks.  I can’t throw away Nerd Child’s book from kindergarten, which he dedicated to himself, because he did the work.  I can’t throw away Art Child’s early art, or the eleventy billion logs, notes, and receipts that comprise her medical history.  I can’t throw away the Christmas card from Husband, assuring me the prior bad year would soon fade from memory.  (lies, by the way–crystal clear)  I can’t throw away my old, snail mail rejection letters.  Can I?  Maybe I can.  Though they are safely tucked away in the file cabinet, it isn’t like they’re making a mess.

I went up to the new apartment, stared down the ancient monster of a range that comprises half the kitchen.

Chocolate pudding brown. When it was in style, it was called coppertone.

Chocolate pudding brown. When it was in style, it was called coppertone.

In case you’re wondering, I’m going to bring my beautifully plain white stove upstairs with me.  The work is being done.  I’m not sure how we’re going to eat for the rest of the year, but most of the major cracks and holes in the walls have already been repaired.

I haven’t worked on my short story in several days, and doubt I will today.  I’d like to, but there’s more crap sorting to do.  I’m still waiting on agent responses for Astonishing, and as I sort crap, I can imagine my little email bing is notifying me of an offer, and fantasy-stock my soon to be real (maybe, I hope) new tank.  One of my friends is making plans to come and visit later this fall.  Whee!  We’ve never met in person, but after years and conversations, photos and laughs, she’s as real to me as Fatigue.

Anxiety, crap, and all, I’ll take these moments.

Splintering

New floors

New floors

That’s what it feels like, this preparing to move and trying to find workers we can afford.  I needed one thing to go smoothly, and this was it.  We walked into the floor store, and I asked the guy to show me the least expensive hardwoods he had in stock.  Excellent.  Next day delivery, whee!  The delivery guys even called when they said they would, and showed up on time.  And that’s where the smoothness ended.  Turns out the wood was in the wrong type of boxes, not packed correctly, or something.  Because as they unloaded their truck onto the elevator, boxes were splitting and planks were spilling out.  Off the elevator, more planks hitting the floor.  Hi, new neighbors!  No really, we’re quiet people, try not to hate us yet.  Needless to say, lots of boards were damaged.  This did make it easy for me to take some of the planks that didn’t have a box anymore and play puzzle on the floor.

And Art Child saw the piece.  The perfect piece.  She took it and placed it on the floor in what will be her room.  Sure, the linoleum tiles currently in there are an excellent example of late ’60’s decor, but I don’t think we’ll miss them too much.

IMG_1934In the interest of budget and productivity, Husband took the wallpaper off of the bedroom walls.  You never know what you’ll find behind wallpaper.  You could find a hidden fortune, or maybe

just this.

just this.

I would pissercize my anxiety away, but I re-injured my back pulling old nails and hooks out of the walls.  Ohhmmmm.  I’ll just meditate on my future new tank.  I’ve got the perfect spot all picked out.

Reef wall

Reef wall

Husband and I went to get little sample cans of paint colors this morning, and as I was hyperventilating, thinking of the work and cost ahead, this song came on the radio.  I don’t think I’ve even heard it in twenty-five or thirty years.  Not a soothing song, but I was soothed.  Maybe it just threw me back all those years, to the many moves I’ve made, and how it’s always worked out. Besides, it’s Friday, and that’s always good.

 

Pissercize

Think I can trademark the name and be the new Jane Fonda? Jillian Michaels? No?  How about Richard Simmons?

The point being I am still unable (will never be able?) to go back to my old yoga routine, or walk the same distances I was–until recently–able to walk.  Oh, my back, she is old.  But I needed to do something to get myself moving.  I wouldn’t mind the weight gain if it hadn’t cut my wardrobe down from small to pitiful.  And I still wouldn’t mind so much if it weren’t for my head.  You know, the old advice about exercise releasing endorphins and being good for mood.  For me it’s true, and I really, really needed to do something to work off some of the pissy factor.  I found a yoga DVD specifically for back care.  The workout is short, the poses are gentle, and they aren’t held for the usual amount of time.  Bonus, it’s led by Rodney Yee, and I find his voice soothing.

Did I mention the chair?

Did I mention the chair?

Yes, it uses props, which I’ve never used before.  A chair and a strap.  Part of me feels like I’m cheating, and part of me is just grateful to have found a way to get back to a regular yoga routine.  I don’t think this is doing a damn thing to whittle down the thickened waistline, but it is helping my head.  This and some additional meditation exercises, I’ll be singing in no time (sorry, world).  Pissercize, for the bitchy among us.

It’s helping enough so I went for my annual haircut this morning.  Not only got my hair cut, but made the appointment in advance, so I was able to see the hairstylist who works magic with my mop, no easy feat.

Thank you, Frank!

Thank you, Frank!

 

An added plus–he’s fun, my age group, and very politely didn’t mention that the top of my skirt doesn’t actually close anymore.  Maybe he didn’t notice, I kept my shirt untucked and over the waistband.  It’s possible.

Still trying to figure out getting the work done on the new apartment.  The price quotes we’ve received so far are literally exorbitant. The work that needs to be done on the walls is more than I can do, but I swear we’re talking about some plaster work to repair cracks/holes, and painting.  No structural renovations.  Thinking about the discussion re Brooklyn roots and Barbra Streisand’s new album as my hair was tamed, I’ve come to the realization that what/who I need is Dolly.  As in, Hello.

 

 

Hasta Luego, Summer

Yes, I really do miss this.

It never gets any fucking easier.

And so it goes.

Hello Fringelings!  Lots of life since I last posted.  Still adjusting to life without Big Senile Dog, Little Incredibly Dumb Dog is continuing to have a hard time, searching for her buddy.

I just said goodbye to Nerd Child.  You’d think with the years all this would get easier, wrapping up summer, saying goodbye to the boys, school starting up again…but it doesn’t.  For me, anyway.  Some people say the first year is the hardest, but I disagree because after the first year, you know just how much you’re going to miss them. Supporting each boy’s desire and decision to go to boarding school wasn’t easy, but the school Man Child attended was great for him, and the school Nerd Child is attending has him happier than I ever knew was possible to be in high school. This is a big year in Fringeland.  Man Child is in his senior year of college, Nerd Child is a junior in high school (though they don’t call it junior year in his school, all the boarding schools have strange and individual terms for the grades), and Art Child…Art Child begins eighth grade tomorrow.

Eighth grade means insanity here in New York.  High school admissions.  For those unfamiliar with the pomp and circumstance of city schools, entering high school isn’t limited to the “usual” adolescent stress of worrying about getting lost in new hallways and remembering where your locker is.  It’s a process.  There is no zoned high school for us, so even limiting the choices to public schools, there are tours and applications and interviews, portfolios and auditions.  Because being a young teen and parenting in the city isn’t stressful enough.  So yesterday, in preparation, I approached the crate.  Then I spent an hour and a half sorting through and tossing out all the junk we no longer need.  I thought I did this after Nerd Child’s high school admission rounds were finished, but apparently not.  From what I found, I hadn’t tossed anything since I cleared out after Man Child’s college admissions.

The Crate

The Crate

This is my super system for school admissions.  Sure, the savvy moms use Excel spreadsheets and apps, but I’ve got a crate.  The above pic is what’s left after clearing out.  The latest high school books from the Department of Education, a notebook I’ve used for notes and tracking since I began this fun eight years ago, a notebook from Nerd Child’s high school process (excellent tips that are still applicable from the admissions counselor of his middle school), and acceptance letters and packages (those I could find, anyway. I know several are missing).  Because mama pride.  All this experience, I’m more relaxed, right?  Nope.  This will be the first time everything is riding on the public school admissions, and Art Child would like an arts-focused school, so much will be new again.  Three different kids, interests, and abilities means different school choices. Crap!!!!

New Yorkers, of course, believe this is the best and only valid way to have their kids in the best schools, and have the best college options later.  Oh bullshit.  Colleges around the world–even those “top,” Ivy League colleges–are filled with kids who didn’t go to the “top” NYC schools.  And I’m having an ongoing panic attack thinking of many of those not top NY public schools that kiddos are assigned to when they don’t make their choice schools.  Can’t I just go back to the beach and stay there, eyes closed and iPod in my ears?  I may not have done anything fabulous or gone on vacation, but I will miss this summer.

I did have a couple of pieces of good news last week.  *drumroll please*  The larger apartment came through.  Oh. my. God.  I have no idea how we’re going to get it habitable and still have enough money to eat this year, no idea how we’re going to get packed and moved without the boys here to help without my back literally breaking, but it’s going to happen.  Even if I have a stroke from the price quotes I’m hearing for painting and floor installation, it will happen.  Even if  they don’t fix the toilet that’s currently doubling as a fountain, it will happen.  And luxury of luxuries, a second toilet, a little half bathroom.  Two!  I’m so thrilled by this the first second third thing I did was go up and scrub that toilet.  The first was sweeping, the second was bathe Little Incredibly Dumb Dog, who was gray and sneezing after spending a few hours up there with me.  The thought of moving into an apartment that won’t immediately be covered in a layer of dog fur is…strange.  Maybe not bad, but strange. (the little one doesn’t shed)

Another bit of good news.  I had applied to be a mentee through the WoMentoring Project, and received an email from the agent I applied to for mentoring, and yes!  I/Astonishing was chosen.  What, specifically, will this mean for me and Astonishing?  No fucking clue, but it won’t be bad, and could potentially be fantastic.  Actually, being chosen is already fantastic.  Funny, because when I wrote the essay for the application, I was thinking about all my application essay experience–writing parent essays for kiddos’ school admissions.  And I’ve written many, many of those, each school has their own special set of essay questions. Hmmm, if I never earn a dollar for my fiction, maybe someone will pay me a dollar for admission essays.  (Kidding of course, that would be unethical.)

Last week Mrs Smitholini and I celebrated thirty years of friendship.  I suggested matching tattoos, but for some reason Mr S didn’t care for that idea.  So we went to see Wicked.  Just Mrs S and I, like two grownups, a perfect show to celebrate friendship.

So as the season gets ready to change, changes in Fringeland.  Good stuff, nerve-wracking stuff, life.

Not So Great Escape

I left this view,

Bricks, bars, and concrete, just a hint of green.

Bricks, bars, and concrete, just a hint of green.

and this mourning pup

If she could, she'd be dressing herself in black from head to tail.

If she could, she’d be dressing herself in black from head to tail.

And spent a couple of days looking at this view

Pool!

Pool!

Ok, maybe it’s true that an overnight in the suburbs with Art Child isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I imagined a vacation this summer, but I take what I can get.  I needed to get out of the city, away from the waiting and waiting to hear about the apartment, because I’m a peasant.  And apparently peasants aren’t worthy of timely responses, regardless of how much money is involved. And a couple of days of laughter with friends are always a good thing.  Besides, look what I got to snack on while poolside

Blackberries!

Blackberries!

once I valiantly fought off this guy

Ok, I waited for him to finish and fly away, but I was still brave.

Ok, I waited for him to finish and fly away, but I was still brave.

I floated in the pool, felt my freckles multiply, and watched Art Child turn blue having a great time

IMG_1878

Don't be silly, I don't sub skate, but it makes an excellent flotation device.

Don’t be silly, I don’t sub skate, but it makes an excellent flotation device.

Mr and Mrs Smitholini and I had dinner outside, and had a visit from a neighboring family.

Mr and Mrs Tick dropped by

Mr and Mrs Tick dropped by

with their children, Lyme and Disease

with their children, Lyme and Disease

The four legged members of the household were particularly happy for the company.

She let the guests know exactly where they should go

She let the guests know exactly where they should go

while he watched her

while he watched her

and he wished they would both stfu and let him enjoy his massage.

and he wished they would both stfu and let him enjoy his massage.

Later in the evening, Mr. Chic–artist and model extraordinaire, third born of the Smitholinis, about to return to his art college– gave Art Child a trim.  Her bangs are now perfect, she is beyond thrilled, and all is right with the world.

The following morning, I tried to snap photos of the bluejays chasing each other from tree to tree, but they were too damned fast.  IMG_1885 IMG_1905On the way home, we stopped in a new to us fish store, where Mrs Smitholini and I drooled over the gorgeous and healthy fish and coral.  They even had frag tanks with very reasonably priced pieces (“frags” are fragments of coral reef colonies, a more budget friendly option than buying entire colonies for your tank, not to mention the thrill of watching a tiny frag thrive and grow into a colony in your very own slice of the ocean).  I had a long chat with the manager about the latest in LED fixtures for the best coral growth, and then, in the back, I found they had the tank of my dreams.  THE tank.  80 gallons of shallow reef goodness.  I inspected the glass, the silicone, inspected the cabinet under the tank, climbed a ladder and peered into the back chambers.  Mrs Smitholini stopped me from actually climbing into the tank.  She’s always been my voice of reason.