Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vacation!

I hadn't been on a true vacation since I'd been divorced -- a couple of long weekends with my best friend in order to run a marathon in another state. All of my siblings live on the west coast. They all came in to town in July in order to celebrate my dad's 65th birthday.

One of my sisters drove in with her husband, who flew back alone (she works in the school so has summers off) and the other one flew in.  We decided to drive back together -- my first real road trip!  Of course, I look at her potential itinerary and realize that we will be driving through Utah just as a marathon is taking place!  My sisters were troopers, and we slowed down our trip by half a day or so in order for me to check another state off of my list!

I didn't keep great records of where these were taken, but I believe it's in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I purchased a CD that was supposed to enhance our drive through the mountains -- and it worked!
This Clark's Nutcracker (add another one to the life list!) was begging for food; luckily we all ignored him -- he needs to be wild!
Gorgeous!  I just loved it.  I have tentative plans to go back with one of my close friends.  I can't wait!
We stopped to do a bit of birding -- more for the life list; alas, no pictures! -- my sisters aren't birders, but they were good sports about it.
This translation was in our hotel room in Utah.  It had us all confused.  We tried google translate and posting on facebook.  The next morning, I called the front desk and asked what the second language was.  He claimed that they paid someone to translate it into Spanish but they only recently found out that it wasn't actually Spanish.  We found this so funny.
I showed it to a couple of friends -- one from Colombia and another from Costa Rica and both of them said, "I do not think that is Spanish."  Perfect!

Here is a picture from Dinosaur National Monument.  There were so many dinosaur bones here that they left some in a hill so that we could see what it was like for the archaeologists.  You can touch them and everything.  Highly recommended, and pretty empty of people (especially compared to Rocky Mountain National Park!)
We continued on driving, I ran the marathon (I won an age group award of a loaf of bread!), and we eventually made it to Crater Lake.  The last time I was here, I was married, and we ran the marathon together.  This time, it was with better company and more relaxed.  Once again, so beautiful.  You just look and wonder how this is possibly real.
In Oregon, there was a lava flow that happened a long time ago and created some interesting landscapes.  We trapsed around a bit, and then went to a lava cave.  So happy to visit these places after all the mess died down.
We finally made it to Portland, where my favorite aunt and uncle live.  Among other things, we went to the Chinese garden, where I got this fortune:
Yay!

Later, back at my sister's condo, we had a great time, which included making pina coladas.
I didn't take many pictures that I can post here.  They'd just adopted a new cat, who was quite skittish and living under my guest bed.  My sister and her husband were in the living room watching TV, but I'd gone to bed since I had an early flight. 

The cat came out from under the bed and I took this picture and texted it to my sister (in the next room) but by the time she arrived, the cat was already under the bed again.  I kind of like being able to keep my parrots in cages since I know where they are at all times!
To wrap up, we had an amazing vacation, and are in preliminary planning for our next one.  I'll be a little busy next year -- running the Boston Marathon, going to France with my mom, possibly doing rim-ro-rim of the Grand Canyon with a close friend -- but someday soon, the three of us will hit the road again!

And June comes to a close...

Less than three months behind now!

June ended with a whirlwind of concerts -- Lady Gaga, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, and Outkast: four days straight!  I actually don't listen to contemporary country music (though I can talk about late-90s country for days...) but my motto is that you don't turn down free tickets!

My recommendations, for what it's worth:

Brad Paisley -- a big MEH.  If you are offered free tickets and don't have anything better to do OR if you are a big Brad Paisley fan, then you should go.  But I wouldn't pay money to see him or go much out of my way.
Luke Bryan, on the other hand, put on a great show, even for someone like me who knew none of his music.  Still not sure I would pay, since I don't know the songs, but I'd rearrange my schedule to go if offered free tickets.
Outkast (disclaimer: I have been a HUGE fan for years) was AMAZING.  The crowd was so into it, and since they don't have a new album out, they just played the hits.  If they are coming to your area and you love them, please go!

It was definitely the most diverse audience I've ever been in (which I love) and it's put me into nostalgia (I can't tell you how many times I've listened to "B.O.B." and "Ms. Jackson" over this summer!)
It's my birthday in July, and I received this fabulous package in the mail!  I had to post on facebook to see who sent it to me; my wonderful cousin.  I've been so busy and haven't made it yet, but what a fun surprise to find at my door!
My best friend and her husband (also a friend) went out with me for my birthday.  We went to a Vietnamese place and I had pho.  Perhaps it's a lot better if you eat meat, but I really didn't see what the fuss was about.  Glad we went and the company and conversation (as always) were great.
Since Max is obsessed with flying to my stained glass window and chewing the wood, we have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately.  That's where I am right now, in fact!  Here is a picture of the two of them.

Max, as always, is begging for head pets.  Calypso, who had been wandering around my counter, wound up settling on my stick (which I keep handy in case I need to remove Max from the stained glass: so high up!) and doing the parrot-equivalent of the barrel-roll.

Fun times!

Lazy Days

I purchased a hammock to go on my porch this summer, and have spent many lazy hours reading outside. I love it! Sometimes, I take the parrots out with me so they can enjoy the breezes:

Concerts & Closings

I had an amazing summer. One of my goals was to attend 14 concerts in 2014. I achieved that before the end of June! (Interestingly enough, I have not gone to any since then and it's mid-September!)

One of my favorite concerts was Lady Gaga.  We were in the pit, so had a good view of the stage, but because she's so short and we were in the back of the pit, we mostly saw her backup dancers and saw her on the video screens.

We put lightning bolts on our faces, and I went with three of my favorite friends.
What an experience!
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Shortly thereafter, I learned that my favorite restaurant, which happens to be just a few blocks from my house, was closing!  My parents and I go here frequently, my best friend and I went at least once a month, I had many first dates here (maybe those are worth forgetting!)

In any case, my best friend and I went on the last weekend it was open, for old time's sake.  I took a day off of work and we had a great time.
It's going to reopen soon, as another one of my favorite local restaurants (a small chain -- this will be its 3rd location.)  However, my parents love Italian food and aren't exactly fond of Mexican, so we'll see if they even try it.

Parrot yoga

When it's nice outside, after I get back from my morning run, I put Max in her sleep cage and bring her on my porch with me while I do yoga.

Sometimes she yells "Hello!" at the passers-by with their dogs, but mostly she just says "Oof!" as I transition from downward dog to plank.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Outsmarted!

In my new house, Max's favorite spot is on top of my stained glass window that's in my stairwell.  You can see it in the background of this picture.

However, she is not allowed there, as she chips off pieces of old wood and I want my house to look nice!

I attempted to hang a curtain in my stairwell to prevent her from going up there.  But the barrier was ineffective as she just decided to perch on it instead!  And usually wind up on the stained glass after a few minutes of strutting around, proud of herself.
I have also tried using a curtain to enclose her in the living room, where their cages are.  She has a two-pronged approach to deal with this inconvenience:

First, she flies directly into the curtain several times, to see if she can dislodge the tension rod and cause the curtain to fall (this must hurt...)

When this fails (about half the time), she flies to the ground, crawls under the 1/2 inch space at the bottom of the fabric, and then flies to the stained glass window.

I still have not figured out an effective solution to this other than intense supervision and going upstairs with her.  Or corralling her in the kitchen with me.  I need to become smarter than my parrot!

(My actual plan is to get something that can fit there so she no longer can.  I just have to figure out what and actually do it!)

Short stories

Still working my way through the summer...I figure in 30 years I'll be glad these pictures are out there.

My friends were hosting a gala to raise money for LGBT charities.  I received an invite, and had to find the perfect outfit...
Unfortunately, I was having too much fun and didn't get any pictures taken of me wearing it; I just have this one I was taking to send to a friend for advice on which dress to wear:
The gala was the most successful one ever, and I had a great time.  I can't tell you how many times I was told that I looked fabulous!  This will definitely become an annual event for me -- I'm already on the lookout for a dress for next year!

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I was driving along a busy road when I saw something that just didn't look right.  On second glance, I saw a baby robin -- way too small to be out of the nest -- right in the middle of traffic!  Again, I stopped my car, so happy that he didn't get run over until I could get to him.  I wasn't able to locate his nest (he'd fallen from a tall tree), so I put him in a planter.  I don't know what happened to him, but I am telling myself that his parents were able to find him and keep him safe.

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I have always wanted a globe.  While at a consignment furniture shop, I found one!  I think it looks really nice in front of my fireplace.  This fireplace is currently not operational, but in the near future, I will attempt to convert it over to gas.  It was at one point, but apparently something happened.
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Sometimes when I'm cooking dinner, I feel a gentle pressure on my foot, and look down to find a friend:

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Pina coladas!  These were so amazing, and someday I will figure out how to perfect this recipe!

Early Summer Beer Fest

I live in a town with a fair number of beer fests. I also now live on the side of town in which most fun activities happen, which means that I can bike to most of these fests! My best friend, her friend from high school (who has now become my friend), and I went to a beer fest towards the beginning of the summer. We'd started the day with a 15 mile run, so we were definitely ready and thirsty when it started. Also happened to run into other friends there!

The taps from one of my favorite breweries (I must admit, I'll frequently buy the beer solely for the nature-themed names and pictures on the holder!)
An ingenious way to carry your beer around in my neighborhood -- though you'd run the risk of theft, depending on what type of beer you're carrying...
Cheers!

Friday, September 5, 2014

RIP, Beeps

As I briefly mentioned earlier, I made the very tough decision to euthanize Beeps on June 15, 2014.  This was a very tough decision, and I still miss him every day.  I probably will for the rest of my life.  He was only 16, and should have lived to at least 30.

I adopted Beeps almost accidentally.  I'd adopted Calypso in 2004 because he appeared to love Thomas while we were at the rescue.  If I'm being honest, at the time rescue caiques were quite rare, and I wanted to adopt Calypso partly because of that.

We got Calypso home, he recovered from his abusive home, and, once settled in, strongly preferred me.  (Perhaps he can sense sociopath?)  Thomas broke his femur when, in December 2005, Calypso latched on in a terrible bite.  Thomas walked over to the couch, pried Calypso off of him, but Calypso took an unfortunate bounce, landed on the floor, and broke his femur.  He was terrified of Thomas after that, even though I can't blame Thomas for prying off a bird who was grinding into his skin.  He even had the presence of mind to go to the couch to pry him off so Calypso would be cushioned.  This is not evidence of his sociopathy -- I have plenty of that!

In any case, I kept reading about how caiques get along with other caiques.  At the time, I was not as discerning about believing what I read on the Internet, so when another black-capped caique -- and one about the same age! -- was surrendered to the rescue in 2006, I decided to adopt him, too.  I had idyllic visions of the two of them sharing a cage, preening each other, etc.  But all of my grand plans were dashed when I got Beeps home and I realized that not only did he not get along with Calypso, but he also didn't get along with Max!

I had Beeps for just shy of 8 years, and much of that time was spent making sure that he neither attacked another parrot, nor was attacked by them.

Over the years, I grew to love him greatly (he was so adorable!)  I learned his quirks.  For example, he would launch flying attacks at me when I'd read a book on the couch.  I could read a magazine on the couch.  I could read a book anywhere else.  But when I'd grab a book and read it on the couch, he'd attack.  He'd also attack if anyone lifted their arms above their head.  He'd attack if I carried a Tupperware container in front of him.  The list of his triggers kept growing, and I abided by them in order to have a happy bird.  He was something else.  I loved him so.

He had a distinct whistle.  At the end, he'd shout "Pretty baby!"  If I did the whistle, he'd shout, "Pretty baby!"  This was the only way I could get him to speak on command.  He also had a demonic voice in which he'd start chanting, "Babycakes, babycakes..."  He only knew three words -- "pretty," "baby," and "cake/s," but he knew how to use them for full effect.

I'd noticed that he had trouble pooping.  He'd try, but nothing would come out.  Sometimes, poop would stick to his vent.  I took him to all of the avian vets (certified or not) in the city, but no one could figure out what was going on.  He still seemed to be his normal self, but parrots are masters at hiding illness.

One day in May, I came home from work, and he was listless and had prolapsed.  It looked like a red balloon was hanging out of his vent.  I rushed him the the emergency vet (who happens to be certified avian!)  She cleaned him up, fixed his prolapse, and stitched him close.

I moved him to a small, sleep cage so that he could recover.  I put the cage in my room, and we had a great last month.

He'd fly to my laptop as I was on the computer in bed:
He was not happy about the antibiotics and pain killers he had to take, but he dealt with it with aplomb.

We went to the vet several times a week, trying to figure out what was going on:
In the car, I'd play a CD of his favorite music and, when he wasn't too scared, he'd whistle along with me.

In the morning, I'd let him out to explore as I got ready for work.  Many times, I found him hanging out on my pillow:
After several weeks, and several thousands of dollars, his prolapsing kept continuing.  The vet said I could try a surgery with a less than 10% success rate.  I knew that he was suffering, and it wasn't fair to keep him alive for my selfish desires.

I made the very difficult decision to euthanize him.  As I'm typing this, nearly three months later, reliving it is bringing many tears to my eyes.  I'm so sad this his parents were captured and that he was born in captivity.  He deserved to live in South America, in a large flock of caiques.  He deserved to be able to have a family and fly free.  Instead, because of selfish humans, he wound up in my home.  An unnatural environment for a parrot, and an environment that eventually caused his death.

Here is the last picture I took of him. The vet allowed us as much time as we needed to say goodbye.  I had grabbed a tissue and placed it in the palm of my hand.  I was trying so hard to be strong for him; so that he wouldn't sense my sadness and feel sacred or sad.  Inquisitive as ever, he found the tissue and made a toy out of it.
I called my parents to let them know what had happened.  They drove the hour to see and comfort me.  My mom had brought a special cloth to use as a shroud.  My dad dug Beeps's grave, and I placed him in my back yard.  I put a paving stone over where he lay.

They also helped me to clean his cage and move it to the basement.  I wasn't up to the task alone. I had Beeps's toys in a bag, and parts of his cage still in my living room.  Calypso paid Beeps homage by walking over to the debris and making sad sounds while ritualistically bobbing up and down.
Since Beeps's untimely death, Max has started making his whistle.  She never did this when he was alive.  Even though Calypso and Max didn't get along with him while he was alive, Beeps was still  part of their flock.  I showed them his lifeless body, hoping they'd understand.

I miss Beeps so much.  I know I made the right decision -- I consulted with my most bird-savvy friends/acquaintances.  I couldn't keep him alive and suffering just for me.  Yet sometimes I am still overwhelmed with sadness that I couldn't make this right.  A feeling that I failed him.  I loved him so much, and I truly believe that he was as happy as a captive parrot can be.  I will miss him every day for the rest of my life, and I always look where he is buried and think about what an amazing being he was.

He survived some of the most horrible abuse I'd ever heard of (before he came to me.)  He was a survivor.  I am so lucky to have known him.

Nature and Pride

June started with a 50K with my other best friend.  After a harsh winter and long spring, seeing greenery was so welcome!  This race, unlike most that start in the morning, started in the afternoon.  And since I was running with my friend, who is slower than I am, that meant we'd be running in the dark.  So we enjoyed the daylight as much as possible!

I'm trying to remain anonymous here so I can feel free to be open and honest (very few people in real life know about this blog), but here is a partial picture of me, in front of some trees:

We wound up finishing just before midnight, and had an amazing time.  We were singing on the trails, a la Weird Al, laughing, and having a great time.  Which was great because she got injured during the run, so I lost one of my favorite running partners while she rehabs and gets better.

The next day, I did a Beer Run -- about 2 miles with 4 mandatory beer stops -- though since I'd run a 50K the day before, it was a Beer Walk for me.  And I didn't officially finish since all of my friends were faster and ran back to the last beer stop to find me.  So it's taken me over 3 months to finish so far!

 
I ran into a guy I'd dated the previous year, which was a little uncomfortable, but we chatted and had a nice afternoon.  And then I had to leave because it was PRIDE!!!

One of the most amazing parts of my new beginning is the new friends that I've made.  Thomas was a loner sociopath who was isolating me.  I didn't realize it at the time, and I'm not so sure he did, either.  In any case, when he cheated and I left (well, he left first, for his mom-clone mistress, but then he wanted me back and I declined), that meant I didn't have a lot of friends.  Luckily my acquaintances understood, and became my friends.

Among my new-found friends is my coworker who, along with his husband, have welcomed me with open arms into the gay community.  Through them, I've made other life-long friends and had what has, so far, been the summer of my life.

My best friend and I went down to the gay pride parade, and it seemed like we were friends with half of the people there!
Then, we went out to dinner and had pie.  It was great.

I am so happy that I live in a time where people are more and more accepting of gay people.  I have two gay siblings, and it used to worry me -- that they would face discrimination, or mean-spirited people, be beat up, etc.  My mom broke down in tears when my sister came out because she was worried about what the future held for her, thinking of Laramie.  But now?  With all of the progress that has been made in the past few years?  There still is room for improvement, but I am so heartened for my friends who are reaping the benefits of those who came before.  There were so many people celebrating at pride! 

That my coworker and his husband had a wedding and invited everyone we worked with (he hid the fact that he was gay for the first 10 years he worked there since we work at a very conservative company in a very conservative industry.)  That so many coworkers came and celebrated.  That I didn't hear a single negative remark about it.  That so many people said it was the most fun wedding they'd ever attended.

This was just the beginning of an amazing summer.