Can an item, an object, a rather meaningless piece of metal and rock, formed into a piece of jewelry, be a source of bad luck?  History would seem to suggest it’s possible. There’s the curse of the Hope Diamond. And the legend that surrounds October’s birthstone, the opal, and which my mother told me when I was young: Opals bring bad luck to those who wear them if they aren’t your actual birthstone. 

Is it true? 

When I was five I begged, Begged, BEGGED my mother to let me wear her opal earrings to school one day. She relented, and of course, I lost one of them. Was that because I was born in June and so should have been wearing pearls instead?  Or was it because I was only five and probably shouldn’t have been trusted with a pair of nice earrings?

And how about the bad luck that fell upon the Brady Brunch after Bobby found that Tiki idol on the construction site in Hawaii?  Greg almost drowned while wearing the thing, a spider crawled into Jan’s bag while she was carrying the idol, and Alice threw her back out when she had it hanging around her neck.

I’m thinking of all of these things because of a ring I bought.  It’s a rustic looking ring, hand made by an artist who sells his wares on the internet.  It’s copper with a green stone of Seraphinite, all coils and beads, and my husband says it reminds him of Star Wars.  It reminds me of a clock’s works.  I won’t say where I purchased it because I don’t want to be accused of suggesting the artist is selling cursed jewelry in any sort of way, but I need to document the events that have occurred since the ring arrived in the mail:

1. My husband wrecked my car.  My still new car, the one we had just bought back in the fall.

I had JUST checked the mail and was rather excited to see the package with my ring had arrived when I looked up to see my husband backing my car out of the garage.  A split second later I heard an awful crunching sort of sound, and then I saw him stop the car, half in and also half out of the garage, while the garage door came down upon the car’s roof. And then I watched as my husband started to inch the car forward, back into the garage, with the garage door upon the roof of the car, scraping the paint off the roof as he went along.

“STOP!  STOP!” I screamed.  “What are you doing? STOPPPPPPPP!”

He stopped.  But by then the damage was done.  The passenger door mirror was broken off the side of the car and the roof looked like Freddy Krueger had been giving it a good back scratch.

Afterward, my husband said that I must not have pulled the car into the garage very straight. Which explains why, if the car isn’t straight, you’d back it out straight to correct the problem, ripping side view mirrors off in the process, no? And then, for added insult, you’d go ahead and close the garage door onto the top of the car.  Perhaps trying to hide the fact that the mirror damage came first?  Was this my fault for parking slightly crooked?  The garage door’s fault?  My husband’s fault? 

Or maybe, just maybe, this new ring is bad luck…

2. I nearly broke my toe off on a chair leg.  I walk past this particular chair 20 times a day and it’s never grabbed my toe before, but this time, it made a special exception.  This was minutes after my husband broke my car.  By this time I was wearing the ring.

3.  Still wearing the ring, because apparently I never learn, I smacked my son in the face as I was talking with my hands.  The ringed hand didn’t get him, but still, I left a nice red mark near his eye.  Why did he sneak up behind me like that?  Did the ring CALL to him?

Those are the things that happened soon after the ring arrived in the mail and I put it on.  I haven’t had the nerve to wear the ring since, but it’s still in the house and since then:

4. The printer ink cartridge exploded all over my son’s hands in a rainbow of colors and it took many washings and half a bottle of rubbing alcohol to get the ink off.

5. A button popped off the top of our brand new leather ottoman coffee table and I can’t figure out how to get it back on.

6. Five of the new fish we bought have died.

7. I got a terrible sunburn.

8. There’s a nest of stinging flying insects hiding in our bushes.

9. A giant black spider crawled across the computer desk right in front of me.  So I’m ending this here because SPIDER!!!!!, and Jan Brady … and hell, I’m not THAT slow.  I know what I need to do next. I have to go get the ring and return it to the ancient burial ground in Hawaii…



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Blame it on the Mail Man

So, Mother’s Day is coming.  This Sunday, to be exact.  It snuck up on me this year, it truly did.  I ran out and bought cards at noon today, thinking I was still brilliant because the mail man doesn’t show up until two o’clock p.m. around these parts.  I’d mail the cards, they’d arrive no later than Friday, maybe Saturday, and be just in time for Mother’s Day, and nobody would be the wiser.

Of course, TODAY the mail man came by early.  I missed him.  Now I have to drive to the post office. Earlier today I had to drive the dog to the vet. Then I had to drive to the store to buy Mother’s Day cards.  Now I have to go out AGAIN to the post office.  All because of the mail man who can’t keep to his normal routine. And yes, I’ll just go ahead and blame the trip to the vet on the mail man too at this point.  Because you know that if I was anxiously awaiting delivery of some important piece of mail or a package, the mail man would conveniently show up late.  It’s the way of the universe, and so everything will be the mail man’s fault today.

Speaking of package delivery… yesterday FedEx delivered a package. They left it at my front door. They also left a door tag ON my front door saying “We left your package at front door.” I’m wondering, was that really necessary?  Do people truly miss the obvious? I bet their lawyers made them add the door tags after someone left a box sitting on their front porch for weeks, all the while calling FedEx demanding to know where their package was.

My husband is expecting a package to be delivered as well.  I think it’s a Mother’s Day gift for me.  He asked me if it had arrived today.  I told him no, it hadn’t come yet.  But now that I think about it, I ought to go outside and check around the perimeter of the property.  It’s entirely possible that FedEx delivered it and stuck it in the bushes, with a note attached to the bushes, saying “We left your package in the bushes.”  I’ll take a look when I get back from the post office.

And finally, this… I saw a car the other day with a license plate that said “SMALL PKG”.  I felt sorry for the driver.  I felt even worse that he thought that was something he ought to advertise. If there is any bonus to the fact that he had a small package, I guess it’s this: If it’s small, it’s probably easy for him to hide it in the bushes.


Filed under FedEx, Mail, Mother's Day, pacakge delivery

Spanish Guy

Four score and seven years ago….  Eighteen years and four days ago a woman asked me out on a date and I said YES. And before you get all excited thinking I’m sharing a bit of sordid history here, you should know the woman was a graduate school friend of mine, and she wasn’t asking me to go on a date with HER because she was already married, to a guy. Rather, she was trying to nudge another classmate of mine, a young, hot Spanish Guy (only it turns out he wasn’t really Spanish), into asking me out.

Spanish Guy had tickets to a baseball game. There we were, this gang of friends and classmates, hanging out in the Ratskeller, having drinks and talking after class and Spanish Guy happens to mention these baseball tickets. He had an extra ticket, did anyone want to go to the game with him?

I do! I do! Pick me. PULEEEEESE PICK ME, PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME, I screamed in my head. But it felt like middle school gym class all over again. Who, out of the group of us sitting around that table, would be chosen to be on Spanish Guy’s team, to get to go that baseball game with him?

I held my breath, the wait was excruciating. It was baseball, after all, a guy’s sport. Mark expressed interest in the tickets. I was certain he was going to pick Mark, I wouldn’t even be given a second thought. Damn you, Mark, I thought.

Because, you see, I had a thing for Spanish Guy. A crush, I guess you’d say. But I had it bad. I’d had it since the very first day of my very first class in graduate school, from the very first moment I laid eyes on him. I about broke my face smiling at him whenever I saw him, but trying not to smile too much, lest I seem like some kind of smiling freak. But up until that night at the Rat, Spanish Guy seemed rather nonchalant, like it didn’t matter to him if I was around or not.

But then Karen intervened. She told Spanish Guy to take me to the game. Or she told me that I should go to the game with Spanish Guy. She told Mark to buy his own damn tickets if he wanted to go to a baseball game. Honestly, it’s been 18 years, my memory is a little fuzzy on some of the details. But to make a long story short, in the end, IT WAS ME! I GOT PICKED! I was the CHOSEN ONE! I was on the team!

A few days later Spanish Guy came by my house and picked me up for our date. I was sporting new clothes, having labored over my wardrobe, nervously hoping to look my best. Hoping with all my might to pass some sort of worthiness test. Spanish Guy’s brother, and his friends, and his brother’s friends would be at the game, and I really wanted them to like me. To think that I, a GIRL, was worthy of sitting in that stadium seat next to Spanish Guy.

I don’t remember which major league team won that particular game. But if you’re keeping score, you should know that I won. That baseball game was the first date of many, which eventually gave way to that old childhood song: Belle and Spanish Guy, sitting in a parking garage at graduate school, K.I.S.S.I.N.G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. It’s been 18 years since that first date, baby, almost 8 years since the baby carriage, and yes, I’d do it all again. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Even though I learned that you weren’t really Spanish after all.

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Filed under anniversary, first date, life, marriage, memory

Memory Lane. With Shadows.

“Memory,” as the Barenaked Ladies sing, “is a strange thing.” In the last 24 hours I’ve found that to be very true, indeed.

Like millions of other people, I’m on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed catching up with old friends, sharing stories, sharing memories, and looking at photos, both old and new.

One of my friends recently posted some photos from our high school days on Facebook. I remarked that somewhere around this house, I had a box with similar photos. I vowed to dig it up and scan the images for the world to see.

Last night was that night. I checked all the places I thought the box would be: the spare room closet, under the bed, the dark recesses of the upper reaches of my own closet. But the box wasn’t there. Eventually, after much digging, I found it in the basement, buried under a mass of other boxes. It was old, and dusty, and it made me sneeze.

My son watched with curiosity as I opened the box and pulled out items: A Senior Memory book, corsages from homecomings and prom, old autograph books from 5th through 8th grade, certificates and test results and lots and lots of old photos.

The autograph books were a sight to behold. I didn’t even know I still had them. I didn’t remember EVER having had them. But here they are, solid, proof.

“Never kiss at the garden gate. Love is blind but neighbors ain’t.” Noelle wrote that at the end of 5th grade. What’s all this about kissing? I wondered as I read it. Kissing in 5th grade? It wasn’t until 6th or 7th grade when my friends secretly passed around Judy Blume’s book Forever, that I learned much about kissing. I read those passages with wide eyes. Kisses indeed!

Kathy, my best friend, whom I’ve kept in touch with all these years wrote simply, “Have a nice summer. It was nice nowing (sic) ya!” As if our friendship was over. Ha!

I don’t remember what Ermis did to me, but he wrote, “To Belle, The person I got good on her birthday.”

Alyson simply told me to have a fun summer and “don’t drown while swimming.” I must have taken her advice. I’m still here.

Susan told me to “Stay Cool and Stay High.” If I recall correctly, she had a slew of older sisters. This was the late 70s. I bet they smoked pot.

Shawn wrote: “I really enjoyed being your friend this year. I will always remember you. You have been a close friend and I don’t care what other people say, but I say you’re the best.” What DID other people say about me? I had no idea. The way I remember things with Shawn, well, we rode the bus together, and we had the same 5th grade teacher. One day Shawn had a necklace. It was imitation gold with crystals glued into it to look like diamonds. He was going to give it to his mother for mother’s day, or perhaps her birthday. Somehow, I convinced Shawn to give that necklace to ME instead. Maybe other people thought I was manipulative. How horrible was I? Oh my God, Shawn, I am so sorry. I’m glad you still thought of me as a friend, and for what it’s worth now, some 30 years later, I STILL HAVE THAT NECKLACE! It’s in mint condition, as I could never really bring myself to wear it. That’s how guilty I felt about talking you into giving it to me.

A turn through the pages of my autograph book from my middle school years left my husband asking “What did you DO to those kids?!” Sadly, this is where my memory begins to fail. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t remember.”

But maybe it gives me a glimpse into what THEY thought of ME.

Somebody who signed their name as “Tuna Fish” wrote “I don’t mean to be mean but you need Listerine, not a sip not a swallow, but the whole damn bottle.”

Andy said I was NOT a goodie goodie. And then he wrote that Damon said I had a big butt. Somebody, be it Andy, or Damon, or perhaps I myself, scratched that last part out with pen, but not so well that I couldn’t make it out.

Mark always thought I was mean. Melissa thought I was weird. Jon thought I was all right, and that must have been what kept me going after more autographs.

Eric “The Great”, David, and Jon, were all in love it with me. “It’s true, honest” someone wrote.

Shelley must have read Forever before me. She wrote “Two in a car, two little kisses, one second later, Mr. and Mrs.”

Linda offered “May your life be as long as Dolly Parton’s bra strap.”

Laura said I had a lumpy head!

Faye said I was conceited, and a few pages later Vivian backs her up with “To Belle, an ugly stupid, dumb, conceited pig!!! Just Kidding!! Your lovely, beautiful great, talented, sweet, friendly, friend. I’ve had a wonderful year with you. (I lie). Vivian.” And still, she wrote down her phone number and asked me to call her.

Andrea said she’s really sorry she met me, and Shannon said I was a wonderful person then wrote “signed, A Just Kidding Person. Shannon.” She’s on Facebook too. Hi Shannon!

By the end of our 8th grade year, Jon wrote that I should “Drop Dead”, and Ted simply wrote: “Fuck You!” (Thanks, Ted, I loved you too!)

But it wasn’t ALL bad. There were plenty of nice things written about me too. In fact, Sandy, whom I’m sad to say I don’t remember AT.ALL. wrote that I was her BEST FRIEND EVER. And my teachers all had good impressions of me. They wrote glowing statements telling me I was “one of the good folks”; one of the “best students ever”; “smart and intelligent”; their “favorite student”.


But I wasn’t perfect, not so perfect as to elicit such mean comments in my autograph book. The statement goes on to say: SHE MAY NEED TO REVIEW SPELLING CONSONANT SOUNDS, SPELLING ALL SOUNDS IN A WORD, SPELLING VOWEL SOUNDS, USING PRONOUNS. Personally, I think the CAT needed to review the use of CAPITILZATION.  And THANK GOD for spell check.

As I scanned photos into the computer to post on Facebook, I marveled at the things I’d glued into my Senior Year Memory book. Ticket stubs from concerts I don’t remember attending: Chicago, Adam Ant, BARRY MANILOW???!!!; from dances I don’t remember dancing at; playbills from school plays I don’t recall, yearbook seminar’s I hardly remember.

Gas was 89 cents a gallon when I graduated from High School in May of 1986. Movie tickets cost $4.50, unless you went to a matinee for $2.00.

I kept a list of the guys I dated (Why?!), and when and how long I dated them. The lengths of time seem off, much shorter than how I remember those days. Marty, 9th grade, 2 months. Brian, 10th grade, 6 months. Mike and Darryl, in turn, 2 months and 3 months respectively in the 11th grade. Lee, 2 months in 12th grade. I remember those days, those guys. But then I come to another name, Steve. Someone I supposedly dated the summer before and through the beginning of my senior year in high school. And I don’t remember him. AT.ALL. A face comes fuzzily to my mind, if I search hard enough. But is it Steve’s face, or is it simply someone I saw on a television commercial? I have no idea. The guys I list after Steve, I remember them. But Steve escapes me. Who was he? Where did we meet? What happened to us?

Memory. It’s a strange thing.

My brother has a great memory. He was able to confirm for me that yes, he remembers that I went to a Chicago concert. And Adam Ant concert. The name Steve, he says, is familiar, but no, he doesn’t remember him.

I had a story published in a magazine.  I didn’t remember this.  I opened the magazine wondering why I had kept it.  I flipped the pages and read poems and stories from other classmates, and then I saw my name.  The story I wrote.  When did I write it?  And who submitted it to the school magazine?

And so I’m left sorting through the stuff that fills this old box in front of me, turning the pages of a memory book. Left feeling like I’m sorting through the memories of someone else’s life. Trying to remember who the hell Steve was. And how the hell did I get to that Adam Ant concert?

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Filed under life, memories, middle school, nostalgia, old times, Steve

Baby Wants An Answer. And Wants It Now.

Last night, I sat near my seven year old son as he drifted off to sleep.  The lights were off, the room was quite, and I was about to leave when he rolled over and suddenly said, “Tell me a telling story, tell me about something funny I did when I was a baby.” 

“Okay,” I said.  “But only a short story.  It’s already past your bedtime. Let me think for a moment.”

But before I could begin to think of which baby story to tell, he interrupted my thoughts with, “How do babies get born anyway?  How do they come out?  Like how did I get out of YOU?”

My mind reeled.  I was frantically searching for answers.  For lies.  For anything I could use on this curious child to change to the subject and get him to go to sleep.  I’d already used “Shhhh! Be quiet and watch the movie!” when he’d asked that question during one of the opening scenes of Narnia: Prince Caspain the previous weekend.  Having already been used, that option was out.  Besides, we weren’t watching a movie at this particular time.

“Uh, uh, um…” was spiraling through my head. Not very helpful, I might add.

“Look!  Monsters!” I could have screamed.  Even, “Shhh… I hear something.  Did you hear that howling?”  I thought to ask.  “It sounded like a werewolf, don’t you think?” 

I contemplated any number of his fears, something to steer his mind in another direction entirely: fires, burglars, tornados, earthquakes… but he’d gotten SPECIFIC.  “How did I get out of YOU?” He’d asked.  And then also, I kind of wanted to get some sleep myself.  Scaring the shit out of him right before bedtime wasn’t really in my best interest.

In my desperation I considered this reply:  “You know, I don’t really remember, that was SEVEN years ago. Now go to sleep.” But even I knew that was lame. In fact, at the exact moment I thought of it, I could hear in my mind his likely response, “Mom! You remember. Tell me!”

And so I went with the only thing I could think of and tried to tell the truth as much as I could to my seven year old son.  And as I did so, I related things to a prayer, to squeezing muscles and to water balloons, and my son laughed wide eyed and wondered about poop.

“Well,” I said.  “You know, babies don’t really grow inside a mommy’s tummy.  At least not in the same place the food goes when the mom eats.  The mom has something inside her called a uterus.  It’s also called a womb… like in the Hail Mary prayer, the part where you say “…of thy womb, Jesus”  The womb is the uterus where the baby grows and it’s small and empty inside the mom’s body at first but as the baby grows inside the uterus, it stretches.” 

“Like a water balloon,”  I added.  “It’s small when it’s empty but when you add water it stretches out.”

“Okay,” my son said.  “But how does the baby get OUT?”  “Well…” I said, stalling to gather my thoughts.  “When the baby has been growing in the mommy for 9 months and is ready to come out, the body’s muscles squeeze really tight and push the baby out.”

“Like a water balloon,” I added again.  “If you fill the balloon with water but don’t tie the end of it, the water shoots back out again.” 

“Like POOP?!” He giggled wild eyed and nearly manic. 

“Well… uh… um… sort of like that, but the baby doesn’t come out in the same place that poop comes out.”  He was still giggling and, I could tell, slightly mortified at the thought of a baby coming out covered in poop. I imagined he was thinking about the woman on TV who swallowed her engagement ring whole after her boyfriend hid it inside a milkshake.  She had to retrieve the diamond ring days later, after it had made its way thought her digestive system.  She had to clean her own poop off the ring before she could wear it.

“What do boys have?”  I asked.  And he eyed me suspiciously and said with some alarm, probably imagining a baby emerging from one, “A PENIS?!” 

“Right,” I said. “BOYS have a penis. But girls don’t.  What do girls have?”

“A vagina!” He said. 

“Right!” I said.  “The mother’s body pushes the baby out of the uterus and it comes down a little tunnel and out the vagina.”

“Babies are small but they are kind of big.  So how do they FIT?” He wanted to know next.  So I explained again how the tunnel stretches just enough to fit the baby through and then once the baby is out, the uterus and the vagina shrink back to normal. Like an empty water balloon.

(A special thank you to whomever invented water balloons, by the way.)

“Oh, okay.”  He said, sounding bored now that he knew the baby didn’t come out the poop hole.  “Good night, mom.”  And just like that he rolled over and went to sleep.  This morning, thankfully, his questions were all about polygons.  Not babies.  

But just in case, I think I’d better go to the library and look for some age appropriate books.  Ones that hopefully will have some better explanations than I was able to come up with.   And the liquor store.  I think I’d better buy something to make myself a stiff drink.  I may need it when his classmates’ parents start calling tonight demanding to know what I told my son and why he’s repeating it to their innocent seven year olds who all know the stork delivers the baby.


Filed under babies, children, kids, life, motherhood

Spelling Bee

I admit it.  I’m not the best speller in the world.  I sometimes resort to dictionaries, and I rely a lot on the automatic spelling corrector in my word processing software. But I use those tools to get things right.  I proofread before I hit publish.  I double check the spelling before I send out an email. I’m not perfect, but I try.

There are some things that just really need to be spelled correctly.  Because when they’re not, things can get kind of dicey.  Plus, it just pisses me off.

Like Krab Dip.  Hello! Dip makers?!  Crab is spelled with a C, not a K.  I’ve read your ingredient label.  I know that you use a K to spell Krab, because there is as a Krab.  Except maybe in that cartoon with the sponge.  And so your Krab dip doesn’t have one bit of Crab in it.  It’s fake seafood, and some mayonnaise, and it’s gross, and I’m not buying it. 

There’s the receptionist I spoke to once when I needed to clarify the spelling of a very important person’s name before I sent something off to that person.  “Hello,” I said.  This is Belle from such and such a place and I am sending a package to Mr. Mark Whatshisname and I need to verify that I’ve got his name spelled correctly.  Is his name Mark with a C or with a K?  Bright bulb the receptionist was.  She replied, “It’s Mark with an M.”  “Uh huh, I got that part,” I said as I punched a staple through my eye in irritation. “But is Mr. Whatshisname’s first name spelled M-A-R-C or is it M-A-R-K?”

Right now, it’s the email spammers that are driving me nuts.  It’s bad enough that they spam me in the first place, but they can’t even spam me with correct spelling. Everyday I get new emails in the spam folder of my inbox with subject lines like:

Have Morre Orgisms
Enjoy Beest Sex Evver
Morre Seex
Show Hiiim What Seex You Eenjoy

Dear Spammers, I DELETE your emails without opening them.  And do you know why?  Because while I get the general gist of what you are trying to sell me with the subject line of your emails, they’re all spelled incorrectly. The proper spelling of words may be found in a dictionary.  I suspect you are using a dickshunhairy, and it’s just not helping your cause. Please remove me from your email list.

The other day my son was counting the spare change we toss in an old wine jug.  He wanted to know if he could have the money and I agreed that if he counted it up he could keep it.  He made a chart for himself on a piece of paper, labeled across the top with the type of coin and with space underneath each word for him to write how many of that particular coin he had.  He’s seven years old, and hasn’t completely conquered spelling. His chart looked something like this:

Quarters | Dimes | Nickels | Penis

We had a total of $6.92 in spare change.  $0.32 of that was in penises.  If nothing else pans out for his future, at least I know he can get a job with the spammers.


Filed under spammers, spelling

This Is The Story of A Bird

Once upon a time there was a boy who met a bird. The boy really liked the bird, a little green Pacific Parrotlet, named Kiwi, and told his mom over and over again that he wished he could have a bird too.

His mom had grown up with birds, and thought yeah, having a bird might be fun. The family dog was getting up there in age, and there were only two fish left in the giant aquarium in the corner of the family room. 

The mom thought back to the parakeets she had had as a child.  Popcorn, the yellow and green parakeet, used to bite anyone who came near its cage, but would happily sit on the kitchen floor and stare out the patio door at the family cat who hungered from the other side of the glass for 

Baby bird, the blue parakeet, could talk.  He’d sit on human shoulders and say “Gimme kisses, baby bird!” and then he’d peck at human lips to give them a kiss.

Yes, the mom thought, having a bird would be fun. She debated between parrotlets and parakeets and decided in the end, that since the boy was still young, it might be best to start with the less expensive breed, the breed she had some experience with. And besides, she thought, how hard could it be?

And so the mom and the boy made arrangements to buy a baby parakeet, one that had been hand raised by a breeder.  Sure, they could have saved some money (and time) by going to their local pet store for a parakeet, but the mom was certain this was the way to ensure that they got a friendly little tame bird.  And more importantly, a healthy bird, because breeders are better than pet stores by far…
The mom got things ready for the bird to come home.  She ordered a bird cage on-line, waited two weeks for it to arrive, then received an email saying the particular cage she wanted was out of stock.  So she went to another website where she spent a small fortune on a flight cage so the bird would have plenty of room to spread his wings.  At the local pet store she bought a small cage, one the bird could use and be safe in if the family ever needed to clean out the large cage. The small cage was too small to make a home, but would do the job should a temporary space be needed for a few hours, or even a day. 

The mom bought toys, and perches, seeds and pellets.  And then she bought a third cage, a tiny little thing no bigger than a shoe box, one meant to transport the bird, if it should ever need to go to the vet. 

When the house was all set, with three cages and food and playthings for the bird, the mom set aside the better part of a Saturday afternoon and drove an hour and half away to pick up the family’s newest pet. She paid for the bird and turned around and drove an hour and a half home with the little parakeet, named Blueberry, sitting in a little cardboard box on the seat beside her. 

And then, because the breeder offered a health guarantee, the mom took Blueberry to an avian vet for his very first physical.  The little bird was deemed healthy, and the mom’s bank account was $100.00 shorter for the effort (ahem, not counting the cost of the three bird cages and the food and the toys that had already been purchased).

Life was good. 

For almost a whole week.

Then, one morning, the bird didn’t seem so healthy.  The mom was alarmed, so she took the bird back to the vet who determined the bird had Giardia.  Giardia, the vet explained, was CONTAGIOUS.  HUMANS could catch it.  The mom would have to give the bird antibiotics twice a day for two weeks.  She would have to wash and bleach the cage and all the bird toys and food bowls twice a week as well.  The family would have to be diligent about washing their hands after handling the bird.  If they got sick, they were to tell the doctors their bird had Giardia, and perhaps they did too?  This was serious.  This was BAD. And OMG the mom’s germ phobia anxiety peaked and she wanted to leave the bird with the vet.  She wanted to let the bird loose in the parking lot, let him fly away to live in the wild and infect the wild bird population because OMG! OMG! OMG! GIARDIA?! In her Blueberry? In her HOUSE!

The vet didn’t offer to keep the bird.  Instead, the mom was given antibiotics and dire warnings, and a bill for $130.00, and told to return in two weeks.  And oh, by the way?  The bird had lost some weight over the week it had been living with the mom and her family.  And weight loss in a bird is not always a good thing.  In this case, in fact, it was a bad thing. So the mom should weigh the bird everyday, with a gram scale.  And no, that was unlikely to be the scale she had in her bathroom.

Have you ever tried to feed a bird antibiotics from a tiny little syringe?  It’s not unlike getting foul tasting medicine into a squirming angry child.  There’s screaming and squawking (on the bird’s part) and pleas and please oh please just swallow it already!, and sighs and rolling of the eyes (and maybe a few tears) on the mom’s part.  Every day, for two.straight.weeks. 

The cage cleaning was troublesome.  The large flight cage was too big to wash in the basement deep sink, and too large and heavy to haul up the stairs to the shower.  After the mom spent a cold afternoon scrubbing and bleaching the cage down outside where snow still covered the ground, she realized that, for the time being anyway, this large cage just wouldn’t do.  So the mom moved the bird to the small cage for a night, before deciding with absolute certainty that the small cage really was too small, and the purchase of a medium sized cage was in order. 

Soon the mom had FOUR birdcages, and one bird, whom she’d taken to weighing on her kitchen scale, the one meant to weigh portion sizes of food, not parakeets with Giardia. 

At the end of two weeks, the mom took the bird back to the vet who said the bird looked much healthier, had put on a little bit of weight it had previously lost, and wasn’t at present, shedding Giardia.  Still the bird should continue to take the antibiotics for an additional two weeks.  To be “cured” of Giardia a bird needs at least two clean samples taken a few weeks apart (the samples, in case you didn’t know, come from the bird’s fresh poop).  And since Giardia isn’t always shed, it was possible to get a clean sample one time, and sample full of Giardia another time.  This is not unlike the samples a man must submit after having a vasectomy.  Several clean ones are required to ensure the man doesn’t spread pregnancy.  In this case, repeated clean samples are needed to ensure the bird doesn’t spread Giardia.  So, after two weeks of treatment, things were looking up.  But you have to look up to find the sun when you’re deep in the forest, right?

Being on the antibiotic had thrown off the relationship between good and bad bacteria in the bird’s gut, and they needed to fix that.  So the mom was given ANOTHER medication, one she had to add to the bird’s water each day.  A medication which should balance out the good and bad bacteria as it should be. The mom was told to give the new medication to the bird every day for a full week, then stop that medication for a week, then start it again for a week, then stop it for a week.  Armed with the new medication and all of this knowledge, the mom was handed a bill for $75.00.  Good thing the mom had just gotten paid, and had some math skills and a calendar, because this was getting a little difficult (and expensive).

Still, the mom returned home full of hope.  Sure, she had to continue the insane schedule of daily medication dosing and weekly cage cleaning, and she had to add this additional medication to the mix, but the bird WAS healthier.  All she had to do was make it through two more weeks and go back for a re-check.  The end was in sight.  The mom was happy wearing her rose-colored glasses.

Until the day she cleaned the cage and the family dog got into the trash and ate the paper that had lined the bird’s cage.  The paper that was covered in bird poop.  The same bird poop which may or may not have been full of Giardia.  Only another visit to the vet would tell, and that was still more than a week away. The mom decided that, since the dog was already 14 years old, and suffering from age related illnesses, that if the dog should come down with Giardia caught from eating tainted bird feces, well, SHE, the mom wasn’t dealing with that one.  That could be the husband’s job.  The mom already had her hands full. 

Two weeks came and went and the mom, full of hope and thoughts of moving the little bird back into its large cage and moving the other three cages down to the basement and into storage, took the little bird back to the vet, only to be given a bill for $95.00 and to be told the GIARDIA WAS STILL THERE, and the bird would benefit from another MONTH of antibiotics.  Because clearly, the mom has endless supplies of money and nothing better to do.



Filed under bird, Giardia, pets

A Little Bit of Knowledge

There are people, you know the ones, who know everything about everything, right? And there are some people who know a little bit about everything.  And still others who know nothing. At. All.  And so a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Or a funny thing. Or just plain… wrong, like when you’re seven years old and trying to understand the world.  Or trying to apply your understanding of the world to how the world actually works.  Then your mom is left to correct you so you don’t embarrass yourself.  But then she goes and writes about it and embarrasses you anyway.

We got a parakeet.  It’s a male.  Or so we think.  He’s a little young still to be 100% certain, but that’s what the breeder thought and that’s what the vet thought too. 

“Mom?” Snags asks. “Can a male bird lay eggs?” 

I explain that no, male birds don’t lay eggs. 

“Well then,” he says.  “Maybe one day we could get a female bird.”

“Maybe,”  I say.  “But let’s start with one bird and see how it goes.  One bird at a time right now, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”  Snags agrees.  “Cause you know if a male bird and female bird get together, you know what’s gonna happen right?”

And there it is, right there.  The birds and the bees.  Or at least the bird, anyway, in a cage in front of me.  Oh! My! God!  I think.  How did we get from feeding the parakeet to talking about the birds and the bees?  This is so UNFAIR!  I can’t believe it’s happened AGAIN!  I’m stuck in the conversation and my husband is nowhere to be found.

But to my surprise, instead of saying that when a male bird and a female bird get together they’ll have baby birds, Snags says “If a male bird and a female bird get together, one of them is going to end up DEAD!

So this isn’t a sex talk?  At first I’m all confused. I’m silent.  Thinking…. These are parakeets we’re talking about. Gentle little birdies.  How did I miss this part about their murderous nature?

And then it dawns on me.  Snags attended a birthday party a few weeks back.  An animal adventure party where the kids got to hold and learn about a variety of animals: chinchillas, hedgehogs, bearded dragons, cockatiels, a boa constrictor, and my least favorite, a tarantula.  My skin still crawls when I think about that one. 

Snags learned that the way to tell the difference between a male and a female tarantula is to put them together in a cage and the one that ends up dead by morning, that’s the male.  So of course it only makes sense, when you’re seven, that birds would be the same way.

From a book called Hungry, Hungry Sharks, Snags learned that more people die from bee stings each year than die from shark attacks.  Snags has food allergies, but I don’t think he realizes that people can be allergic to bee stings, and that without the same life saving shot of epinephrine we use for food allergy reactions, a bee sting can be fatal to those with bee sting allergies.

And so he asked me, “How would people die from a BEE STING?”  Before I could answer he went on, “Oh I know!  Killer bees!” 

“Do we have them here?” He asked, sounding worried and looking a little green.

Myself, well, I don’t know for sure, I don’t think we do.  I haven’t heard any news stories about killer bees in our area, so I chose to skirt the issue by responding with what may or may not be a lie: “No, I think killer bees only live in places like Texas. Or maybe Mexico.”

Snags was relieved, because he knows those places are far from here.  But then he said, “Yeah, so that couldn’t happen here because Mexico is in Hawaii!”

To all of my former college geography professors:  Forgive me.  I obviously have failed my son.  “No,” I said. “Mexico is in South America, it’s a whole different country from us (and yeah, I know.  My husband, also a geography major, corrected me later.  CENTRAL AMERICA, he said.  CENTRAL AMERICA.  So yeah, geography professors, if you really want to come take my degree back, you can.  It’s old though, and so am I.  I doubt it’s worth much anymore.)  “Hawaii,” I went on, “is in the United States, in the Pacific Ocean.  Mexico is basically SOUTH of Texas.  Hawaii is WEST of Texas.  WAAAAAAY West, across the country and then out across part of the ocean.”

“So do we control Mexico?” Snags asked. 

“No,” I told him. 

“So their Queen can’t control us either, right?” he asked.

“Right,” I said.  And I left it at that.  Because at that point I wasn’t sure if he thought there was a Queen of Mexico or if he was talking about the Queen Bee of the Killer Bee Hive.

On the morning of President Barrack Obama’s Inauguration, schools here opened a couple hours late because of snow.  I had the television on while Snags played with Legos nearby.  “Barrack Obama is the first African-American president!” Snags announced.  “I know,” I said.  “Do you know what that means?”  I asked him. 

“Ummm… Not really.” Snags said.  “I know it means he’s from Africa and somewhere else.  I don’t know where.” 

I suppose I could have said America.  Or Hawaii, and left it at that. Barrack Obama, the President from Africa and Hawaii. But I didn’t want Snags to go around telling people that the new president was from Africa.  I like the guy, and he certainly doesn’t need any other rumors spread about him, more ammunition for some of the idiots out there who still claim he’s not a citizen and can’t be our President.  Because he is, and YES, he can.  And so instead of leaving it at Hawaii, I had to explain to Snags what African-American meant.  About skin color, something he really hasn’t registered before.  A little bit about our country’s sordid history and slavery and how it was wrong and how everyone is equal and the color of someone’s skin doesn’t matter.  Should never have mattered.  But that there are still some people in this world, in this country no less, who are mean and think it does matter, but they are wrong.  That nobody should be treated differently because of the color of their skin.  He understands.  And yet he doesn’t.  I suppose he will, when he’s older, when he studies American History in school.  Right now though, he doesn’t understand the significance of it all.  And I can’t decide if that’s good, or if that’s bad.  I hope it’s good.  I hope it means an entire generation of children, and future generations beyond this one, will grow up not noticing skin color.  Or religion.  Or sexual orientation.  Or any of the other differences that make us interesting, but really, not so different from each other after all.

But back to sex.  Snags got some sea monkeys for Christmas. The other day I noticed that two of them were stuck together.  They’ve been swimming around that way for days now.  My husband thought they swam into each other and got tangled up, that they’d probably die if they didn’t get unstuck.  I however, am smarter than that.  I did a little internet search and learned that no, they aren’t stuck, they’re mating.  They might mate like this for weeks.  I probably shouldn’t stare at them, but sea monkey porn, I have to say, is kind of interesting.  For one thing, the two little black spots on the one sea monkey aren’t balls, but egg sacs.  For another thing, WEEKS?

I made the mistake of pointing this out to Snags: that two of his sea monkeys were stuck together.  “Yeah, Dad said they’re gonna die,” Snags said.

“Actually,” I responded, “I looked it up on the internet.  They arern’t going to die.  They are going to have babies.”

“Really? How?” Snags asked. “Is one a daddy sea monkey and one is a mommy sea monkey?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“But HOW are they going to have babies?” Snags asked. 

I had to think about that for a minute.  I’d gotten myself into the conversation, but I wasn’t about to get out of it with an explanation of the mating behavior of sea monkeys.  Or the mating behavior of birds, or bees, or people for that matter.  If I started, there would be no end.

Before I could formulate an answer Snags asked if they were carrying eggs.

“That’s right!” I said.  “They swim around like that protecting their eggs!  And then when the eggs are ready to hatch they’ll come apart and we’ll have baby sea monkeys! I’m so proud that you figured that out!”

I’m dreading the moment when Snags asks me how the sea monkeys got the eggs in the first place.  When he does, I’m going to change the subject back to tarantulas and killer bees.  Safer ground, for sure.  Even though I know next to nothing about them.  Even if it does make my skin crawl.


Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Holidays!

I will preface this by saying that in the religion department we are Roman Catholic and we celebrate Christmas.  That, I’m sure, will have you wondering why my son Snags was standing before a lit menorah on our kitchen table on the first night of Hanukkah, singing his own twisted version of the Bare Naked Ladies version of the song, O Hanukkah O Hanukkah.  Snags’ version went something like this: “O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah, come light the menorah, O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah, we’re not very Jewish…”

We have a menorah because political correctness means that school children around the nation have learned just enough to be curious and somewhat envious about other holiday celebrations that occur at this time of year.  And when you are 7 years old, and enchanted by CANDLES!!!!!, there is nothing so great as a lit menorah, the ultimate candle holder.  A Kinara would be the second best thing, being as it holds 7 candles. But the Advent Wreath, sadly, which only holds four candles, is a major loser in the Holiday Candle Holder Competition as far as my son is concerned.  

And so, on the first night of Hanukkah, Snags begged to light the menorah and then worried if Santa would still bring him presents.  At first I said no, Santa wouldn’t.  Because I thought Snags was asking if Santa was going to bring him Hanukkah gifts.  As Snags rushed to blow out the Menorah, I realized what he was really asking, and I assured him that yes, Virginia, Santa would still bring him presents for Christmas, regardless of his fascination with that ultimate candle holder.

And so with that I’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Joyous Kwanza. 

And I believe this song, by Straight No Chaser, does it best: The Twelve Days of Christmas

(If you can’t hear it from the link above, you can go here.)


Filed under Christmas

Editing Marks

Just so you know, Snags signed some of our Christmas cards this year.  If you receive a card where the signatures are printed in pencil, as if we could erase the sentiment, don’t be offended.  Accept the card for what it is, a Christmas wish from all of us to you, signed by Snags for me, because I’ve been otherwise occupied with shopping and wrapping and baking and tending to the paper cut I got on my tongue from licking the envelopes on the Christmas cards.  The cards, by the way, were made in China, and I fear for my life because who knows what they made the envelope glue out of, and I ingested quite a bit of it before I slashed my tongue open and sent the foul tasting and scary glue directly to my bloodstream. Don’t fear the mail though, I threw THAT card away.
Snags’ handwriting is pretty neat these days, even if he did throw a few extra commas into the card signing this year: Love, Snags, Belle, and, Snags’ Dad, …  He didn’t catch the extra commas, and I chose not to point them out.

Snags’ first grade class has been learning about editing and editing marks, and how to edit their own writing.  This I don’t understand.  I don’t think I learned about editing until college.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that when I was in first grade I was still learning my ABC’s.  But with editing marks and their recent drug education curriculum, it appears that first grade is the new freshman year of college.

I have to admit, I have a problem with this.  It’s first grade.  The children write in PENCIL.  They should be able to erase their mistakes and start over.  No?  They should not draw lines through their words and move on.  If they forget a letter in a word, they should just go back and squeeze it in there.  It’s not like they have perfect character spacing in their handwriting anyway.  Who would even know?

But Snags’ first grade teacher has a different philosophy about all of this and she has instilled her ways into the children.  Or at least into Snags.

Make a mistake and instead of correcting it, you edit it.  Use a caret to show where you meant to insert a missing letter.  Cross out letters that don’t belong, or are lowercase when they should be uppercase, or vice versa.

I disagree.  Use your erasers, is what I’m saying.  Because at the beginning of the school year, each child had to bring in two boxes of pencils (presumably they all came with erasers) and four large pink pearl erasers.  School has been in session for only a few months.  There are 22 kids in the class.  With four erasers each, that makes 88 erasers, not counting the ones on the ends of the pencils. Surely they haven’t run out of erasers already?

Because this editing business got Snags into trouble the other day as he was writing a thank you note for a gift he received.  He made some mistakes while writing, and he decided to simply cross them out and carry on.  The result looked as though he was thanking the gift giver, but changed his mind. He wrote THANK YOU, then crossed it out completely, because he meant to write Thank You; he didn’t mean to write in all capital letters.  When I saw the finished Thank You note, with the words THANK YOU crossed out, and no other form of thanks written in its place, I questioned him about all the crossed out words and told him that he’d have to erase them and start over.  He got mad and insisted on using the editing marks because he LEARNED THIS IN SCHOOL. 

But I pervailed.  In this house, we fix our mistakes and make things look nice.  We don’t cross out our mistakes on thank you notes.  It looks like you aren’t thanking them at all, I said.  Snags held his ground and yelled at me because I AM NOT THE TEACHER, and so I sent him to his room where he had to stay until he calmed down and decided to do it my way.

Eventually he came out of his room and rewrote the card (grudgingly) without crossing out any of the sentiment of it.  He then insisted on showing me all of the editing marks he’s learned in school: the cross out, the caret, and the circle around a missing period, so the end result looks like a Target ad.

When parent teacher conferences rolled around I had to ask the teacher to tell Snags that editing marks were only for school, not for writing at home.  She laughed as I told her about the thank you card ordeal, but that’s only because she wasn’t here to see the tears. 

At any rate, I think she had a word with Snags, because we haven’t had problems with editing marks since then.  The problems have moved on to his reading comprehension homework where he insists on using his own “kid version” of spelling when in fact, the correct spelling of a particular word is in the paragraph he just finished reading.  This drives me nuts.  But, I’m told by other parents with older children in the same school, that spelling doesn’t become important until 3rd grade.  That’s like what, college junior year?

May the Lord help us and bless us all with patience and good health and holiday cheerCHEER.  No, I think I mean Cheer!


Filed under Christmas, editing marks, first grade