Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Poor Baby Bird

I came home the other day and spied a black lump on the patio.

It was a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. The nest, alas, is in my gas BBQ grill.

Incredibly ugly baby bird that pulled at my heart strings anyway.

The bird nest is in the bottom, not in the jar hanging down,
but up in the grill itself, in the burner part.

This is one of the baby bird's parents. I think it's a Carolina Wren.

I took a wide piece of mulch and coaxed the baby bird up on the stick, then, stooping over in a very uncomfortable position, I carried it back to the grill. I even opened the grill, expecting a bird to fly out at me, but the nest was not accessible from there.

I left the little baby as close to the grill as I could. I know next to nothing about song birds and I have no idea if they can somehow lure babies back to nests once they fall out. In my head, I had visions of the parent bird somehow placing the baby on its back and flying it home.

One of the parents showed up after I was inside, and while I ate lunch, I listened to it sing and cry and coax its little one to fly home. The little one attempted to comply, and I could see it lifting its tiny wings and occasionally moving around.

The song bird's trill was excited and anxious, and finally I went into the front of the house where I could not hear it.

When I returned a little later, all was quiet. I could not see the baby bird. I went outside and found that it had somehow flopped itself off the patio and landed upside down. Apparently unable to right itself, it died.

I was sad. The world can always use another songbird.

No sound came from the grill, and I came in and researched the bird to see how many eggs the female would have laid. Apparently, wrens lay about 5-6 eggs. But I'd heard no chirping.

Later, though, I saw the parent bird fly back to the nest with a worm. I opened the back door a crack and I could hear the faintest of little chirps. I felt better knowing the birds had not lost their only little one.

In the meantime, I do not have a BBQ grill to use, but we don't use it that often anyway. This one is 20 years old and I have told my husband that when the birds are through with it, I would prefer he take it to the dump rather than try to clean it out. I am not keen to eat burgers or steak on it after it has been infested with birds and lice and whatever else they may bring with them. The grill is quite old and it looks junky so I don't mind if it goes away.

Nature is cruel because it has no choice. Baby birds die because they fall from nests. That's the way it is.

People have a choice, though. They are not birds. They can pick up a human baby if it falls. Instead, people are just cruel because they want to be.

Human babies die because we choose to withhold care via lack of funding or services. Last year, six out of every 1,000 children under the age of one died in the United States. [CIA World Factbook]

They didn't fall out of a nest. They just didn't receive the care they should have.

Bosnia, Guam, Poland, New Zealand, the European Union, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, and Japan, among others, have a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. In fact, 56 countries have lower infant mortality rates than the United States. Monoco, with less than 2 deaths per 1,000 infants under the age of one, has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.

And we think we have good health care? Just wait until the vile old white guys in the government finish with it, and you'll see how bad it can be.

How many babies will fall out of the nest then?

How many mothers will sing sad, sorrowful songs?

How many of those songs could be prevented, if we only cared about one another, and not about the dollars in our pocket?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Darling, You Are Growing Old

My mother used to sing a line to me at every birthday: Darling, you are growing old. I don't know if was from a song, or simply something she liked to sing, but nearly every year, especially after I married, she would croon that.

And here I am, old. Well, aging, anyway. I'm still in my birthday month. Still celebrating having made it yet another year.

However, this year so far, two of my high school classmates have passed away (class of 1981). They were, of course, my age. Early 50s.

I am not sure how many of my classmates have gone to the great beyond. I believe there were eight that we were aware of when we had our 30th reunion in 2011, which was six years ago. Now I know of 10. I suspect there are more. We were a class of 212 (I think), so about 5 percent of us - maybe even 10 percent or more, since I haven't kept up with most people - have passed on.

We were a generation that grew up eating bologna, TV dinners, and candy bars. We drank Dr. Pepper and scarfed up cookies. Our moms worked, mostly, and if meals were anything like at my house, they were whatever a poor pooped woman could manage at 6 p.m. Frequently, that was Kraft Mac & Cheese or whatever else she could rustle up.

Food companies of course were eager to help. Who cared if the stuff was full of preservatives, sodium, fats, and who-knows-what? It shut the kids up.

Unfortunately for my mother, and for me, I never liked cooking so I wasn't much help. To this day I still don't understand appropriate nutrition and how food is fuel and what the body needs versus what the body craves. They are different things, aren't they? Craving and needing?

Nor does cooking appeal to me, even now. I don't like naked meat. I don't care to see it sitting there unclothed on my counter, with its thighs or gristle or fat waiting to make my hands slippery and yucky. I don't like flouring it only to fry it and watch the grease pop out all over the stove, making a lovely mess. I don't like trimming fat from pork or steak, nor do I know how to marinate meat so that it has a lovely taste. That I leave to restaurants.

Mostly I know how to stuff meat in the oven and let it bake until it is not red and bleeding, and then we eat it. I don't salt it, because my husband and I both have high blood pressure. Sometimes I fix pork or a chuck roast in the crock pot and I put Mrs. Dash in there.

We eat a rather bland diet, for the things I can cook are bland, and thus when the grocery aisles scream out "cookie" or "potato chip" or "something with taste, for God's sake!" then of course the hands reach out and the item finds it way into the basket.

Now, though, I think the reality of aging is finally conking me upside the head. If I don't take care of myself, I'm not going to have a long life. I'll be gone, like some of my classmates. I've already outlived a percentage of them.

I have to figure this out. I know in my head what I need to do. It's the rest of me that needs to be convinced, especially my taste buds and their unquenchable desire for things sweet and chocolatey.

Always a work in progress over something. But better to be a work in progress than a staid old statue made of clay.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Steaing: Greenish Q&A

Sunday Stealing: The Greenish Questions

1. What is your current obsession?

A. I am playing a city-building game called Elvenor. You have to gather supplies and ensure you have enough population, trade for provinces, and join a fellowship. I usually don't play multiplayer online games because I don't care for the interaction with real people, especially in those RPGs that can get very fierce and have lots of fighting, cursing, and under-developed little boys of all ages. But this a mild, gentile game and the only competition is to see who can build the fastest, and the only reason to mix with the other folk is to ask if anybody has steel to trade for your silk or whatever.

2. What’s your go-to coffee place?

A. I don't drink coffee. I used to have a tea hang-out but it moved about 30 minutes away so I don't go there any more.

3. Who was the last person that you hugged?

A. My husband.

4. Do you nap a lot?

A. I seldom nap. My husband, however, says taking naps makes you live longer.

5. Tonight, what’s for dinner?

A. Either soup, a baked potato, or leftover chicken, unless my husband decides to take me out.

6. What was the last thing that you bought?

A. I bought a gallon beverage dispenser at the supermarket on Friday. My doctor told me my blood tests indicated I am not drinking enough water (something to do with my kidneys, which I need to discuss with her in more depth because that came from a nurse's call and I haven't seen the lab work), so I thought if I filled this dispenser every day with water and drank it, I could keep track of what I am drinking.

7. What is your favorite weather?

A. A nice, party-cloudy to sunny day, temperatures about 70 degrees, with a light breeze. That would be a perfect day for just about anything. However, I am also very intrigued by storms.

8. Tell us something about one blogger who you think will play this week?

A. Harriet has lots of dogs and a sore knee. Stacy has a grandbaby and last week her daughter was sick. The Gal's best friend is named John and she loves the Cubs. Zippi is trying to get back into her crafts after the loss a loved one. Bud is going to write a book and stop being the caretaker of Sunday Stealing. SmellyAnne recently changed addresses and is now in Boise, making her a Boiseitte (?), at least, according to Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. Bev posts pretty pictures on Sat. 9. Kwizgiver is a teacher who reads a lot.

9. If you were given a free house that was full furnished, where in the world would you like it to be?

A. Somewhere where it is warm in the winter time. If you throw in a jet and a pilot, I'll take New Zealand, because I could go there in the winter and come back to Virginia in the summer.

10. Name three things that you could not live without.

A. My heart, my head, and my stomach. If you mean outside of my body, then food, water, and shelter. If you mean the trivial things of life, then my computer, a telephone, and a car.

11. What would you like in your hands right now?

A. That's a loaded question if I ever saw one. But I will go with a piece of watermelon.

12. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

A. Eating chocolate, followed by playing video games.

13. What would you change or eliminate about yourself?

A. I would lose weight and feel the fear and do it anyway.

14. As a child, what type of career did you want?

A. I bounced around from writer (always) to geologist, archeologist, librarian, historian, and teacher. In some ways, being a news reporter allowed me to do all of that as I have written articles on rocks (we have karst topography here which causes sinkholes and creates issues for development), historical digs (archeology) and historical facts (historian), and I considered my writing a form of teaching, plus I spent time substituting at the local public schools and taught for a year at the community college before my gallbladder went splat. So I have managed to wrap it all up into one big blanket and throw it around myself.

15. What are you missing right now?

A. A clean office. Mine is a wreck.

16. What are you currently reading?

A. I just finished reading Truevine by Beth Macy, a nonfiction book about two young men from my area who were taken into the circus prior to the 20th century, and I also just finished listening to Sex, Lies, and Serious Money, by Stuart Woods on audio. I am also reading on my Kindle a book called The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen. And then there are newspapers and magazines that I read all the time, like The New York Times, The Roanoke Times, The Atlantic, Vox, Salon, the Washington Post, etc. etc.

17. What do you fear the most?

A. Being old, alone and penniless while living under the overpass at the interstate, eating out of dumpster at Pizza Hut.

18. What’s the best movie that you’ve seen recently?

A. Wonder Woman. I saw it twice at the theater, which is nearly unheard of for me to do, and I'd go see it again and I plan to own the DVD. It is a great movie, a little campy, and it has the best message at the end.

19. What’s your favorite book from the past year?

A. Let me check my list. I reread three of the Harry Potter books, so they would probably be my top favorites, but I also enjoyed The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. Among others.

20. Is there a comfort food from your childhood that you still enjoy?

A. I still buy Smarties on occasion, just for me. We (meaning me, my brother, and my two youngest uncles, one who is a year younger than I am and the other three years older) used to eat them as "super pills" when we were children - they would give you special powers when we were playing. We did the same thing with different colors in M&Ms.

I encourage you to visit other participants in Sunday Stealing posts and leave a comment. Cheers to all us thieves who love memes, however we come by them.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday 9: Listen to the Music

Saturday 9: Listen to the Music (1972)

Because Zippi requested it.

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here. (Love me some Doobie Brothers!)

1) The lyrics say, "What the people need is a way to make them smile." What song lifts your spirits and makes you smile every time you hear it?

A. I haven't heard this song in many years, but I thought I'd try for something original. So here you go, Ray Stevens doing The Streak.

2) Lead vocalist/composer Tom Johnston reports that he's made a lot in royalties because so many radio stations use this as a jingle. Tell us a jingle that sticks in your head.

A. This is a local commercial from my childhood that for some reason I've never forgotten: Evan's Drugstore! Evan's Drugstore! Good prescription service. Intersection of Airport and Williamson Road. Delivery in the city, and in the county too! For drugs, cosmetics, school supplies, it's Evan's Drug Store.

There's also this one:

Hooray for Valley Dale! Hooray for Valley Dale! Hooray for Valley Dale all hail it's Valley Dale! Valley Dale Bacon! Valley Dale Sausage! Valley Dale Weiners! Zing Zing Zing Zing Valley Dale! (I don't have that exactly right. But you can watch it here.)

3) The Doobie Brothers got their start in San Jose, California. San Jose is the largest city in Northern California, thanks to all the tech companies that have headquarters there. Let's talk about the device you're on right now: are all your applications up to date?

A. On my personal computer, which I am using at this moment, yes, everything is up to date. I can't say the same for some of the other things I use. I mean, my laptop has Windows Vista on it. I think my Kindles (yes, in the plural) are up to date and probably the Nook, too. But not the laptop.

4) When they were still a local band, the Doobie Brothers had a strong following among bikers. Are you attracted to biker culture?

A. No, I am not.

5) This week's song is from Toulouse Street, which is considered their "breakthrough" album. Tell us about a moment in your own life that you consider a "breakthrough."

A. In October 1984, I picked up a copy of The Fincastle Herald and saw my first article in print. It was headlined "Making Shiloh Apple Butter" and I'd taken the photos and written the copy, and it wasn't edited much. I was so excited that I met my mother at the local store where she stopped every day on the way home from work to pick up bread or milk or something so I could show her the article.

After that I knew I would be writing for the rest of my life, even though my mother had told me more than once that it was a dead-end career and I'd never make a living at it. Up until two years ago, I wrote for The Fincastle Herald and other local publications for living. While it did not make me rich, it made me happy and it allowed me to contribute to the household coffers.

6) In 1987, the Doobie Brothers did a benefit performance for Vietnam Veterans at the Hollywood Bowl. Next to the Beatles, it was the fastest-selling ticket in Hollywood Bowl history. Which group do you listen to more often -- the Doobies or the Beatles?

A. I would listen more to the Doobies. I know a lot of Beatles songs but I am not a big Beatles fan (please don't throw your shoe at me, Sam.).

7) In 1972, when this song was popular, Wranglers were America's best-selling jeans. Are you brand-loyal to one jeans manufacturer?

A. Generally all of my clothes are made by Alfred Dunner. They make the only ones that seem to fit me and all of my blubber. I would buy something else if it didn't run short or long or tight in the knees/thighs/ass or whatever.

8) Grocery stores saw seafood prices fluctuate wildly in 1972 because of a series of confrontations between the United Kingdom and Iceland regarding fishing rights in the North Atlantic. (Iceland won.) What was the most recent seafood dish that you enjoyed?

A. ::sniffle:: ::sob:: I last had seafood several years ago. At that time we discovered I am allergic to, at the least, shellfish, and as a result I stopped eating seafood altogether. It made me very sick and I have been afraid to try it since. It makes me sad because I adore seafood. (I went to a local allergist and was told they don't have the wherewithal around here to actually test you for food allergies.)

9) Random question: Which of these "top ten" lists would you prefer to be on -- the sexiest, the smartest or the richest?

A. Either the smartest or the richest, I can't decide. Maybe if I were on the smartest list I would also be rich, eh?


I encourage you to visit other participants in Saturday 9 posts and leave a comment. Because there are no rules, it is your choice. Saturday 9 players hate rules. We love memes, however.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Thirteen #505

Summer without video games/apps and computers -

1. Spittin' watermelon seeds as far as you can. Especially effective if you've lost a tooth and have a hole in the front. (I suppose there is an entire generation who doesn't realize watermelons have - or once had - seeds.) Also, pulling a watermelon out of the springhouse, where it stayed cold.

2. Playing in the creek, catching crawfish and chasing minnows.

3. Riding bicycles around the block (or up and down the dirt road) or through the little "forest" of pine trees near the Forest Service office.

4. A blue snow cone from Brooks Byrd Pharmacy.

5. Helping Grandpa mow the yard for a quarter.

6. Taking the quarter to the Orange Market for a soda, a candy bar, and a comic book. (Yes, all three for twenty-five cents.)

7. Buying those put-together balsam airplanes and throwing them around the yard. The ones with the rubber band propeller never worked and they all broke within a day, but we always bought them.

8. Attaching a string to a June bug's leg and flying it around like a trained circus animal (different world in the late 1960s - early 1970s).

9. Hunting for four-leaf clovers.

10. Making a necklace out of clover flowers, or trying to make the "longest clover flower chain in the world."

11. Catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar to light up the room at night.

12. Helping Grandma hang the laundry on the clothesline.

13. Being told every day not to stick your hand in the handmade electric black fan that had no cover guard over the front of it. (The engine was made from a refrigerator motor, I think.)

My summers, until I was about 13, were spent at my grandmother's as my mother worked. She lived in Salem, about 30 minutes away, but was within walking distance of my mother's office.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 505th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.