February 20 – Bird Count

Yummy. I did not know a hawk would eat suet but there you are.    

            Every year the Cornell Ornithology Lab does the Back yard bird count.  If  I remember, we participate.  You just count the birds that show up in your yard. It is easy and fun because we like to go, oh look it’s a blue bird. There is the titmouse, there is hte downy woodpecker. Yeah, our lives are that exciting.

This year we had a treat—a hawk on the ground eating suet I had tossed.  He/she usually hunts the feeder and we do now and then find evidence that he has snagged a meal, usually a smaller bird. He was not letting anyone near that suet and, of course, no bird wanted to go near it because the hawk will eat them.

February 18 – JoJo figured out how to open a drawer

Pulling the drawer handle

            Okay, this cat is crazy smart.  I keep his teaser toys in a table drawer in the bedroom.  One morning I woke up to find feather toys all over the bed.  I could not understand what had happened at first.  Then I saw the drawer was open.  He knew that is where I kept the toys and he had been studying it for a while.  He finally figured out how to open it.  He had been pulling out his toys and was bringing them on to the bed one at a time.  

            It became a routine for him.  If I was not paying attention to him, he opened the drawer and came running to me with a feather in his mouth and drop it at my feet.  (Think dog here.)  So I had to figure out a way to lock a drawer that did not have a lock.  I shimmed it (Marshaguyver style).  It has stopped him for now. But he is studying the bottom of the drawer to see if there is a way to get it out.  I give him a month.  

February 17 – The Crows


            Crows love peanuts.  I feed the birds regularly because we get some really good visitors.  Every bird has its favorite food.  The woodpeckers love the suet, the blue birds love mealworms.  The goldfinches are crazy for sunflower seeds.  Blue jays like corn and mealworms. 

            But the crows.  Well, get out of the way everybody because they have called first dibs on the peanuts.  I toss out peanuts in their shells.  As I am putting them out, one crow will start calling, letting everyone know that the nice Mrs. Lady is putting out the peanuts.  When I go inside they arrive in twos and threes.  They are fascinating to watch.  Some like to soak their peanuts in the bird bath.  Some will try to get three in their beaks (none manage it but gosh they do try).  It does not take them long to clean up the yard.  

            Sometimes I toss out shelled peanuts.  They eat them but not with the same joy.  I cannot say that for the fox I saw munching away on shelled peanuts one day.  Who knew foxes liked peanuts?

February 16 – Swimming 

            I love to swim, I love being in water.  It hurts my heart to know that my shoulders are in such bad shape that one bad stroke could end it for me.  A few months ago, I injured a muscle in my back while I was channeling Katy Ledecky.  I really feared that I had torn my rotator cuff for the third time.  In this case, the third time would not be a charm  The doctor said I probably had a muscle strain or tear in my lat, which is not a rotator muscle.  I was relieved and the pain from the strain kept my mind off it.  It felt like I had a knife in ribs.  If you have never had a rib injury, I don’t recommend it.  It is intensely painful and it lasts for months.  I had to stop swimming for six weeks.  

          When I got back into the pool, I was really worried about a re-injury. I have been working my way back to my regular speed and timing.  But I think about my poor shoulders all the time.  The next time I tear it, and the chances are very good that it will happen, I get reconstruction surgery.  Sounds like fun, huh?  

February 15 – Bee Gees in my Brain

The Brothers Gibb hiding in my brain cells

            I am old enough to be certain that there is stuff in my brain that I have no real use for except for doing crossword puzzles  Things like the names of silent film stars, the names of old baseball players, and the letters of the Greek alphabet.  I just have lots of useless (and pointless) knowledge stored in the long term memory folds waiting for retrieval.  What surprised me was how much music from long ago appears to be taking up space.  

            The Bee Gees don’t usually come up in conversation and I haven’t given them much thought or any thought at all probably since college when they were at the height of their popularity.  I spent many nights in discos dancing to “You Should be Dancing.”  But then it all disappeared–disco and the Bee Gees.

            One night, for some reason, my husband played a Bee Gees song in some music mix and I mentioned that I would love to see a “Behind the Music” on The Bee Gees.  They seemed to implode and disappear, and those stories were always the best Behind the Music episodes (please someone bring this show back!).  I turned to the font of all knowledge, Google, to see if such an episode existed.  I discovered that a documentary was going to be released on HBO.  I just had to wait.  

            The documentary finally arrived and my brain exploded.  What shocked me was how many songs I remembered.  We bought the Bee Gees anthology because why not? and suddenly words I did not know I knew were coming out of my mouth as I sang along.  They really wrote some earworms and those worms were dug in deep.  Brain cells that had long gone dormant sparked to life.  I knew the words to Bee Gees songs going back to the 1960s.  The words to “Massachusetts” came flowing out, and I really do not like that song.  But there it was, verses and choruses at the ready.  That poor brain cell has been sitting around waiting and waiting for someone to need it.  And this was the day.  Even weirder, there were some songs I remembered but I had no idea they were Bee Gees songs.  I honestly thought that “Lonely Days” was a Beatles song.  (Just go listen to it.)  

            Then after that mind blast, I picked up an autobiography of Tommy James.  Once again lights went on in parts of my brain I thought were dedicated to more important things like my old home phone number.  But no, there they were bubbling up from the depths– “Mony, Mony,” “Crimson & Clover “and “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” every word and note a longstanding memory.  

            It is becoming a game at this point.  What obscure music can I recall from the days of AM radio when music wasn’t curated for your particular tastes.  You had to take it all in, the good with the annoying.  Soul, rock, folk, pop, and John Denver singing “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”  There was no way out of it.  And it led to the lurking lyrics in my synapses.  So now I just have to live with the fact that somewhere in the depths of my brain lurks the words to The Candyman.   

February 13 – Curling

            Many years ago, I fell in love with curling.  It was the 2006 Olympics.   It was back in the day when there was no streaming.  To watch curling, you had to watch it in the middle of the might.  I had had shoulder surgery and I was sleeping weird hours and I was on drugs.  When I watch the Olympics I like to watch random events just to see what a sport is all about.  I started to watch curling and I was completely hooked.  It could have been the drugs but whatever it was, I became obsessed.  Anette Norberg was the skip.  She was cool-headed and a really good curler.  I loved that woman.  I would talk about it in the morning.  At first, Matt thought I was nuts.  Curling?  That boring Canadian game?  No.  First it is Scottish in origin and second, it is a chess match.  Once he watched it, well, he too became a fanatic.  

            We wish we could get curling here on ESPN+ or something but that never comes to fruition despite the popularityof the sport during the Olympics.  So we have to wait four years for it to come back to our tv.  We are then glued to the matches.  This year, the Japanese women’s team was our favorite.  Little sprites chattering and laughing.  I swear they lost Gold because they were not having fun.  

February 12 – Walk About and Shopping Carts

            Sometimes on the weekend, Matt and I go on what we call “walk about.”  It is running errands but inevitably, the errands lead us to places we never intended.  This weekend, we went off to the car wash.  

           It turned out I needed a few things from the grocery store.  We were near an Aldi.  Aldi’s is a German company.  I’ve never been to an Aldi, and I thought this would be an opportunity. But I never made it past the front door.  The grocery carts were locked and could be freed only with a deposit of a quarter, which would be refunded to me when I returned the cart.  I can only assume the intention is to prevent people from walking away with the carts.  But would a quarter really stop a cart thief?  Maybe in Germany that works.  But maybe taking that cart and walking off with it is worth a quarter.  I don’t know.  

            Well, it did not matter.  I did not have a quarter.  In fact, I wondered who in this day carries around change of any kind.  I searched in vain for a hand basket or something to carry around the few items I needed.  Nothing.  I decided I did not care enough and if Aldi really needed my quarter to enable to me to use a cart, then they were not for me.  

            We continued on our walk about.  

February 10 – Burtonsville

            Why do I live in Burtonsville?  Honestly, I have no clue except it was an inexpensive place to live, we got a lot of house and land for the money, and there was no homeowners association, a requirement for us.  

            Burtonsville is named after some person I assume.  I have no idea who and I am not sure I care.  They have a parade every year for Burtonsville Day.  This puzzles me.  I have never been to the parade since it takes place on a Saturday morning, and I am not getting up for it.  But what is it for?  There is nothing here that makes Burtonsville worthy of a parade as far as I can tell.  I’d like to say it has its charms but honestly, there is nothing charming about it.  There is barely a town.  It is just a strip of restaurants and businesses along a highway and then houses, some in subdivisions, some not  

            When we lived in Wheaton, which had its charms, Burtonsville seemed like it was a million miles away.  It is on the very northern border of the county, midway between D.C. and Baltimore.  From that perspective it is the center of the universe.  Although it is only about 15 miles from downtown D.C. it takes a good hour to get there given traffic.  Virginia is reachable, but we never really go there.  

            Burtonsville used to be known for its Dutch Country Farmer’s Market where you could buy Amish food and crafts.  But developers came along and forced the Market to move.  The store it occupied had to be torn down and replaced with a new strip mall anchored by a Giant Food.  Why would we ever put up with Amish folk, the one charming thing about the place, when we could have a Giant?  

             My plumber grew up here.  The farmhouse he grew up in is just up the street from our house.  He now lives in West Virginia and commutes here every day.  I guess that gives you an idea of the attraction of Burtonsville.  He tells me that when he lived here there were mostly farms.  It was country, not the suburbs.  You can still see old farmhouses along the roads today.  But we are now an outer suburb and the farm fields have long since been turned into housing.

            A long, long time ago, when I was in my first job, I worked with a guy who lived in Burtonsville.  His wife worked in Baltimore and this was the best place for them to commute.  He was actually ashamed of that fact and tried to hide it.  I remember being puzzled about the town.  I did not know where it was but he did not like to talk about it.  As I look back, I think that was a little harsh.  This place is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is just no place to write home about.  

             Don’t get me wrong.  I love where my house is located from a flora and fauna perspective.  We have land, lots of trees and wildlife, it is quiet and peaceful.  It is great fun watching hawks and foxes. There is a forest preserve next to us that prevents development and there is a lake not too far away.  But I have no relationship to the town itself to the extent there actually is one.  

February 9 – Matt plays trombone

            There is a band from New Zealand who we love without limits—Fat Freddy’s Drop.   They are a reggae, jazz, funk R&B band to kind of summarize it.  Every record is a little different.  We learned about them when we went to New Zealand in 2005. We have loved them ever since. We are even going to Europe to see them this summer.

The most important part of this band is the horn section.  Tremendous horns.  Here is Matt playing along with Fat Freddy on his Trombone.

February 8 – JoJo eats a string

            Having JoJo is like having a toddler.  I need to JoJo proof everything because he is so curious.   He will poke his nose into closets and spaces he does not belong.  He has to check out everything he comes across with a sniff and examination.   But worst of all, JoJo does not have a discerning palate.  He will eat or try to eat most anything he comes across.  He will sniff it and then bite into it.  Right now he is very busy chewing apart a kicker toy tearing a hole in the cloth cover and pulling out the stuffing.  He tries to chew it then spits it out realizing it does not taste right.  Then he moves on to the fallen leaf, the crumb from last night’s dinner or a random spider.  Chomp, chew and swallow.  A couple of bites and it is gone.

            But this one was alarming.  I was playing with JoJo with a teaser toy.  A teaser toy is a stick with a string attached and then a toy attached to the string.  Cats will chase them for hours if you are willing to waste your time amusing a cat. 

            I put the toy down and turned my back for a minute, when I turned back, I found the stick with nothing but a stub of string.   The toy that had been attached to the string was also loose seeming to have been chewed off from the string.  Missing was the string itself.   I searched everywhere.  I could not find it.

            I asked him, did you eat the string?  He did not answer.  If he ate the string, he sure did not show any distress.  The bigger worry was that it could become lodged in his intestines and cause a blockage.  That would kill him.  The only way to know would be a trip to the emergency vet.  So off we went.  

            JoJo howls like a banshee when he is in the car.  He sits in his carrier and cries.  After a while he starts to claw the bottom hoping to escape by digging his way out.  The emergency vet is 45 minutes away in rush hour.  I had to listen to him howl the whole way.  He was showing no signs of being sick.  

            The vet did an exam and took x-rays.  She could not see anything.  She tried to induce vomiting. He did not vomit.  Finally, we agreed we would wait until he either passed the string or he started to show signs of distress.  Six hundred dollars later we went home.  I still have not found that string, he has not passed it and he seems just fine.  Who knows what happened?

February 7 – I Believe in Science

History through t-shirts

            I have boxes and boxes of old t-shirts that I keep as mementos.  As I look back, I am dismayed at how things have gotten so out of hand.  I have two shirts in particular that just amaze me.  One says “I Believe in Science” and the other says  “March for Science.”  How dumb and how absurd is it that we marched to say we support scientists? We actually had to march in the streets to argue that science was valid.  We had to stand up for science in this warped world where no-nothings think they can find all the answers in some rabbit hole on the internet.  At the time the protests were about Trump and the GOP talking down climate change and rejecting scientific predictions.  But it was also about the effort by Trump to weaken environmental laws by adopting regulations that would discount “scientific theory.”  

Sadly, marching makes no difference in today’s world. It is cathartic. I love to march and have my voice heard. Unfortunately, it is only heard by the like minded people around me. Politicians have learned to just ignore it or spin it away as nothing more than radical extremists blah blah blah. So I have concluded that protesting and marching does not really move the needle in relation to the people who you want desperately to listen. I am not against protesting. It feels good. I just know that in the end, it is pointless.

We marched for science and they went ahead and did whatever they wanted–revoked and decimated environmental laws, ignored climate change, and rejected scientific evidence when it suited them. Little did we know at the time that the war on science was only starting and that COVID would make those days look serene. 

            Jesus, we are so fucked up.

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