A Bird-Brained Story

This is Jessica’s cockatiel, Pilot.

pilot 1

Pilot

Pilot is a female.  Female cockatiels are very stubborn.  They are not as friendly or easy to train as males.  Jess knew this, but Pilot’s soft, pretty colors won in the end.  Even though the pet store said she was hand-raised, it took Jess about six weeks to get her hand tame.  When she got frustrated, I used this analogy to demonstrate Pilot’s position:

You are being kept in a small but comfortable room, and every so often a zombie walks in offering you Cheez-Its.  The zombie isn’t doing anything threatening: it’s just standing there waiting for you to take the crackers.  But it’s a zombie!  Zombies are scary!  You really want Cheez-Its, but you have to get near the scary zombie and take them from its hand.  The zombie walks in and quietly offers you Cheez-Its several times a day.  Man, those Cheez-Its look tasty, but hello!  It’s a frickin’ ZOMBIE!  

My story went on and on, but it did the trick, and I kid you not the next day Pilot let Jess hold her. Now, Jess can give her kisses and scratch her neck (which birds loooove), but Pilot will only tolerate the rest of us.  We can hold her, but if we try any funny business like a skritch she hisses.

A few days ago  I put Pilot on the table where I was working on my laptop so that she could peck around and explore, which tends to make her happy.

Thank you for the popcorn, Zombie.

Thank you for the popcorn, Zombie.

I was scrolling up and down pages with my mouse wheel.  From the corner of my eye I noticed that Pilot was awfully still.

How about a skritch?

How about a skritch?

She was sitting in front of my mouse with her head down, asking for a skritch!

C'mon, Zombie.  It's okay.

C’mon, Zombie. It’s okay.

I realized my finger on the mouse wheel made the same motion as scratching her little neck.  Zombie or not, when you need a skritch you need a skritch.

Zombie!  Wake up!  Scratch right there!

Scratch right there.

I grabbed the camera and held it left-handed, practically wrapping my arm around the thing trying to get a picture.  Jess wasn’t going to believe this.  I needed proof.

Dude!  Do I need to stand on my head?

Do I need to stand on my head, Zombie?! Scratch!

I lifted just one finger off the mouse and stretched it over to her little head.

Aaaaaah!

Aaaaaah!

If I stopped, she’d peck my finger just enough to get my attention, and put her head back down.

pilot 8

That’s the spot.

She’d twist and turn just like a cat, making sure I got all the itchy spots.  Even on her face, which was very brave.

It's important to train your zombies properly.

It’s important to train your zombie properly.

Alas, it only lasted a day.  I am back to being ignored and hissed at, which is fine with me.      Less clean-up.  But for one sunny afternoon, I was a bird’s best friend.

 

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A New Talent

No pictures today, but I have a video for you!

I forgot how bad school vacation is for me.  I should have remembered from December, when I got so depressed.  I was looking forward to Spring Break this week because I have been working so hard.  I had plenty of writing to keep my mind occupied, but when the blues creep in I absolutely hate writing.  All that yuck sits among my words like decomposing swamp moss, and I can’t bear to look at them again, much less revise and refine.  I know I need to get over it, but I’m claiming Unskilled Newbie Writer credit.

In the meantime, I read through Celi’s blog and learned a lot about her farm history, which was fun.  Even the sad parts, because those make me feel good, too:  life comes, life goes, life continues and is good.

I also taught myself the cup game thingie…I don’t know what to call it.  *L*  If you saw the movie Pitch Perfect, you know exactly.  It’s not new:  it was in an episode of Full House way back when.  An English singing duet, Lulu and the Lampshades, redid an old song called Miss Me When I’m Gone and added the cup game to it.  The movie Pitch Perfect borrowed it, and now You Tube is rife with covers of it.

So to distract myself one day, I decided to learn it.  When I showed my daughter, Jessica, she learned it, too, along with the song.  She in turn inspired my sister, Michele, to learn the cup-banging part with us.

We wanted to make a video of the three of us showing off our new talent, but Michele, bless her heart, is a solo act.  So she recorded Jess and I instead:

I hope your week was, at the very least, as productive as mine, and that your weekend is happy and restful.

Enter Title Here – Cuz I’m Not Doin’ It

Another frustrating day.  I don’t know if it’s “them” or me, but chocolate, wine, and cake are helping.

It’s them.  It’s definitely them. #$%^ers.

*deep breath, another sip of wine, carry on, calmly*

Today was the first day of school.  It did not go well.  On the bright side, I was finally able to take some new View Club shots:

San Gabriel Mountains, 1-7

San Gabriel Mountains, 1-7

Construction, 1-7

Construction, 1-7

Boone Sculpture Garden, 1-7

Boone Sculpture Garden, 1-7

The weather has been too cold for our tender skins, but in the grand scheme of things it’s been glorious.  The bleachers that line Colorado Blvd. for the Rose Parade have already been dismantled and removed.  Do you watch that on New Year’s Day?  I grew up sleeping in the gutter overnight to get a front-row seat for the parade.  I’ve only done it once as an adult.  I have since decided that it’s much more convenient, and informative, and warm and comfortable, to watch it from home.  The parade is rebroadcast by a local television station all day long in case we miss something.  Plus, several floats drive past my parents’ house the day after the parade on their way to be dismantled.  This year, 19 of them went by.

The annual Tournament of Wilted Roses.

The annual Tournament of Wilted Roses.

Jess and the Rotary International float

Smile, Jess!

I didn’t take pictures of them all, but I got some good shots here.

DJ is doing great, and so is his mommy.  Jess and I spent a couple days at their house, helping new mommy and staring adoringly at DJ, cooing at his smushy smallness and exclaiming with delight at every little twitch and yawn.  Jess tried to wake him up for a feeding once, but she didn’t have the heart to do more than pat his baby tushy back to sleep.  So I woke him up for the next one, to show her how it’s done.  I had way too much fun.  At one point I raised him up like Simba and sang “Circle of Life.”  Who says newborns have to be boring?

On Saturday, a Facebook friend posted a picture of a double rainbow.  I was ready to ask where she lived when I remembered she lives near me!  The post was only a minute old, so I ran through the house shouting, “Double rainbow! Double rainbow!” like a town crier.  Seven of us stampeded out of the front door, then around the house to the backyard because a huge tree blocked our view.  We didn’t see a double rainbow, but we did catch a beautiful single one:

Rainbow

Rainbow pouring from the clouds

That about does it.  Have a lovely…anything. ❤

A Day of Compliments

After class yesterday, I stayed behind with two classmates, Maria and Vicky, who are Italian and Russian respectively.  They began talking about how much they miss their own cultures and how dissatisfied they are with American culture.  Maria said I’m one of the most human Americans she knows, and Vicky said she is fed up with superficial, emotionless Americans.  “You are an exception, though, Janine.  I’m sorry, Honey, but it’s true,” she crooned, and gave me an apologetic hug as if she were insulting me.  It made me laugh.  How is that an insult, to be called human and unsuperficial?

Then later on at The Reyn, Jess and I were engaged in a conversation about…I don’t even know what about, to be honest, but the subject of jobs came up.  “You should work here,” Jess said.

“I’d love to work here.  How much fun would that be?”

Israel, the owner, whipped around.  “Why didn’t you tell me that when I was looking for a new waitress?”  he almost screeched at me.

“I’ve never worked in a restaurant!”

“Bah! You’d be a good fit here!”

The Reyn, if you haven’t read about it yet, is an old, small coffee shop that my family and I frequent.  They’ve never had more than a couple waitresses, and only during busy times, so losing one is losing a big chunk of the staff.  They’ve been down a waitress for about a year.  Israel finally hired a couple of young guys from a type of work-study program, and while they’re good kids, they’re less than stellar at their jobs.

Israel looked at me out of the corner of his eye.  “Maybe I should fire Matthew.”

If only.

One of my classes at school is actually a position on the staff of an annual literary magazine called InscapeInscape only meets officially in the fall semester, to choose the written pieces that will be published that year.  Last week…okay so maybe it’s been a week of compliments…last week the instructor told us that we can continue to work on the magazine next semester and he’d sign off on independent study credit for it.  After class, he asked me specifically if I’d continue on the staff, because he thought my input would be valuable.  I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m the only grown-up on the staff this year:  professors seem to appreciate students over 30.  Still, how nice was that?

OH!   I submitted my essay, When The Hospital Calls, to be published in Inscape, and it was accepted!  Several other editors, not knowing it was mine, said it was one of their favorite pieces of non-fiction.  It would have benefited from more revision, but, you know, wouldn’t they all.  This counts as being a published writer!  Woo-Hoo!

If you read the essay and don’t know Joe, here he is, alive and well 10 years after surviving a brain aneurism:

Jojo, 12-03-12

Jojo, 12-03-12

I learned how to knit this week.  Go me!  My sister, Shelly, bought some round knitting looms that are good for making hats, so last night I made my first hat.  Joe is modeling it.  He actually kept it and wore it to work this morning.

My views for Monday:

San Gabriel Mountains, 12-03

San Gabriel Mountains, 12-03

I decided to get a tighter shot of the mountains with less parking lot.  Today my point of reference is hidden behind clouds, so I expect this shot to change again.  Wednesday should be clear, so I’ll be closer to getting it right.

construction, 12-03

construction, 12-03

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-03

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-03

Here is the rest of The View Club, you should go take a looksie:

Celi, from The Kitchen’s Garden (Celi’s currently on vacation, so go back a day or more)

Claire, from Promenades Plantings

Marie, from My Little Corner of Rhode Island

Linda, from Life on a Colorado Farm

Cathy, from Words and Herbs

Ex Hoss Ted

Yesterday was my first day of school.  It was more likely my 20th first day of school, but, you know: my first day of school on this attempt.

I spent most of last week making sure Drew, Jess, and I were properly outfitted: supplies, clothes, books, schedules, hair-dids, whatnots.  As Monday approached I prayed for a surge of energy to get me through.  A little ripple of nervous energy managed to help, but not enough.  I started a very early morning with my needle closer to E than F.

Too soon, I found that I have a long hike from car to class, comprising about three city blocks and two sets of steep stairs one-way.  It’s a hike I will make 4 times a day, twice a week, unless I can find a better place to park.  I will also make about 10 different trips, on school days, in order to accommodate the cast of characters who still require my taxi services.  After just one day of all this schleping back-and-forth I’m pooped!  I tried to blog yesterday, but even my writing was tired.  Mellow Yellow Monday?  Forget about it!

As I trudged back to my car during hike #4…quads shaking, calves cramped, sweat dripping down my spine…I spied an alumni banner that gave me pause.  They’re all over campus, these banners:  notable alumni with a picture, a name, and a list of accomplishments.  This particular one was Myron Tarkanian.  The face wasn’t immediately familiar, but the name hit me like a ton of bricks.  Tark.  I had him for PE the last time I was here, about 18 years ago.  He was the kind of coach that yelled and teased, ran you nearly into the ground, and instantly became your favorite.  One day, as I chased the rest of the class up and down a stairwell, I heard from two floors above me, “Hey, McCarthy!”

“Wwwwhat?”

“I saw your husband yesterday.”  (He wouldn’t know my husband from Bill Clinton)

“Oh yeah?”

“He said I’m not working you hard enough!”

“He’s a damn liar, Tark!”

And here I am, 18 years later, ready to drop dead only halfway through my cross-campus trek and just up from that hellacious set of stairs, face-to-face with Tark.  Ain’t that a bitch.

Other than being utterly and completely exhausted, I had a good day.  I got into Creative Non-Fiction, for which I was on the waitlist.  The teacher seems fun, so I’m very optimistic.  My second class, Intermediate Composition, I’m not so optimistic about.  I make 3 trudges and 8 car trips by the time I get to that class in late afternoon, and the teacher is dry as Death Valley.  I had a hard time staying awake as he droned through the syllabus.  He perked me up, however, when he asked us all for a writing sample.

I will go back tonight to try to get into another class, U.S. History to 1876.  I’m taking it to help Shelly.  She needs it, but I’m afraid it’ll be too intense, so I’m taking it with her.  It’s not the best reason to take the class, but I’ll get degree credit for it and it does sound interesting, so what the hell.

I’m off to finish my homework.  Stay cool today!  And Happy Birthday to Esther!!!

Noncation, Day 6

This is way late, because frankly I got sick of it.  Recording every day was like being on a vegetable soup diet.  Day one is, “Yay!  Vegetable soup!  Skinny me!”  Day six is, “%^&* this %^&*ing soup and the $%^&ing idiot that came up with it and %^&* it I like being fat anyway.”  Okay not that extreme but you get the idea.  This blogging stuff is hard work.

Day 6

7:30 am:  Wake up for no good reason.  I decide I should clean up a little:  do the dishes, take out the trash.  I turn on the water in the kitchen to let the hot water warm up.  I decide it’s too early for such nonsense.  I turn it off.

8:30 am:  Put the last two farmer’s market eggs on the stove to boil.  Jess calls.  She and John are back on dry land.  Dry land is moving.  She caught five fish:  two dorado, two yellowtail, and one bluefin.  John caught a bluefin.

Fishie fishies

Jess’s catch

There are people at the dock who will process the fish and ship them to you.  Jess and John are having the bluefins made into jerky and the rest fileted.  Jess says that each fish took about 15-20 minutes to pull in.  She caught two more, but lost them when their lines snapped.  Her hands are bruised.  She’s exhausted.  Everything smells like fish.  She hopes  they can take the 5-day trip someday.

9:30 am:  Hear a squeaky pop from the kitchen.  I was so excited about the fishing trip that I forgot about my eggs!  Nothing burnt or ruined, but the eggs might be a little over-cooked.  I fill the pan with cold water and set it aside.  I toast a couple slices of the garlic sourdough.  One of them contains a whole clove of sweet roasted garlic.  Divine.  The eggs aren’t too bad either.

9:45 am:  Hit the Internet for information about these fish Jess caught.  I learn that Bluefin are tuna; yellowtails are jack fish, which are similar to tuna; and dorado is another name for mahi-mahi.  I foresee Jessica’s mother eating very well in the near future.  Perhaps I should look up some recipes.

11:45 am:  Drew sends a text, asks if I’ll pick him up and bring him back here.

1:00 pm:  Drive home.  Seeing the inside of my own home for the first time in days seems surreal.   It’s such a luxury to take a shower with my own soap, dry off with my own towel, and have all the beauty products I want at my disposal.  Being home means not having to go without or make due.  What an epiphany:  to truly appreciate what I have.

Drew tells me all about how he spent last evening.  He donned a fez and technicolor suit, which were recent birthday presents, and met some friends at the weekly street fair down the street.  He bought himself a Dr. Who mug.  He wants to be the next Dr. Who and will wear a colorful suit.  His friends have nicknamed him The Doctor.  He’s thrilled.

Someone recently accused him of being influenced by a “fallen angel” and even asked Jess, “He’s getting darker, isn’t he?”  Here’s my answer to that:

Suit and Fez

The future, multi-hued Dr. Who.

Enough said.

3:00 pm:  Drew is craving McDonald’s fries.  I treat us to the drive-thru.  Tasty, but that’s it:  I’m officially declaring my intention to cook real food again, good readers.

3:30 pm:  Shelly and the folks tumble through the front door.  Mom and Rob collapse into chairs.  Shelly empties the car with a look on her face that says she’s the only one who does anything around here.  Mom says unpacking can wait.  Shelly won’t hear of it and pretends to be annoyed.  I think it’s just excited energy.

Last night they discovered a place about a block away from their hotel called the Forestiere Underground Gardens.  In the early 1900s an Italian immigrant bought a chunk of land in Fresno, CA, intending to grow grapes.  Alas, the climate was too hot and the ground too clay.  He dug through the clay and built himself a cellar to escape the heat and plan his next move.  He discovered that the soil under the clay was rich and fertile.  He planted trees and vines in open subterranean rooms and created a whole complex of underground caverns.  It was one of the highlights of their trip.  If they had come home last night they would have missed it.  I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so.

The kids and I, even Joe, score all manner of souvenirs:  mugs, teas, trinkets, t-shirts, jewelry, and a fat wad of cash for my trouble, which was no trouble at all.

(Don’t get excited: it’s already gone.)

And with that, Noncation 2012 comes to an end, while my humble little life goes back to normal.

Noncation, Day 5

Day 5

6:15 am:  Wake up against my will.  I refuse to acknowledge that I’m awake.  I go back to sleep.

8:45 am: Much better.  Shall I do the Reyn for breakfast?  I’m not awake enough to make a decision.  I turn on the computer and conduct morning house-sitting duties.

9:00 am:  Check email, catch up on blogs, and pretend to ignore the nearly-empty Famous Amos cookie bag, that devil.

9:45 am: Edit “Noncation, Day 3.” I read about my leftover veggie burger and remember that I have leftovers from last night in the fridge!  Score!  Maybe I’ll do the Reyn for lunch, if I feel up to eating out alone.

12:30 pm: Really want the Reyn; really don’t want to eat alone.  I used to have a friend I’d lunch with all the time, but I had to cut her loose.  It would be nice to call her today.  Then I remember why I fired her and the feeling passes.  I think my former sister-in-law (FSIL) might be home today, so I text her and ask if she’s free.  She’s currently waiting for her husband (HH) to pick her up from work, otherwise she’s available.  I invite them both to lunch.  Yay!

1:00 pm:  Meet FSIL & HH at the Reyn.  We have a most enjoyable lunch.  They’re adorable.

HH& FSIL

Aren’t they too cute?

2:00 pm: HH goes to work, which is only a few blocks away.  He’ll pick up FSIL at my parents’ house after work.  FSIL asks for help with a quick school paper.  I happily oblige.

3:30 pm:  Chat for several hours with FSIL.  I’ve known her since she was 4; she is now 26.  She’s been married for a year and is expecting her first child in January.  She works part-time at a preschool and attends Pacific Oaks College, a very prestigious private teaching college.  I’m so proud of her.

My favorite part of our chat starts with, “If I have a girl you’ll have to teach me how to braid!”  I had the same dilemma with my first pregnancy.  The fanciest thing I did with my hair was pull it into a ponytail, and I was having a biracial child:  what was I going to do if I had a girl?  FSIL isn’t exactly a hair wizard either.  Fortunately I did have a girl, and I’ve learned a few tricks in the 19 years since she was born.  Plus there are plenty of other women in FSIL’s life who can help.  She’ll know for sure if she needs hair-wrangling lessons next month when she has her ultrasound.  It’s scheduled for the day of her first wedding anniversary.  How precious is that!

5:00 pm:  Mom calls.  They are in Chowchilla, CA, about 275 miles away.  They’ll be home tonight around 11pm, so I can go home whenever I’m ready.  Are you kidding me?!  They’re going to drive 6 hours after a full day of driving and walking and sight-seeing? I strongly urge them to reconsider, and assure Mom I won’t leave until they’re home.  FSIL shakes her head and laughs at my parents, the intrepid road warriors.

8:00 pm:  I bring home dinner from Bobby’s, a small burger stand a few blocks away.  Their tacos and fries are amazing.  FSIL, HH, Joe, and I watch the Olympic opening ceremonies together.  Mom calls again.  Rob says they’ll stay another night if I’m willing to stay another night.  Of course!  Please don’t drive home tonight!

11:30 pm:  Opening ceremonies are over.  Everyone is gone.  Nighttime house-sitting chores are done.  Kitchen light is on.  Nightie-night!