Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Boys

One July morning as I was leaving for work, I noticed the babies in the birdhouse on the front porch were chirping awfully loudly. As one stuck its bald head out of the opening, I thought "How cute" and obliviously drove off to work. Hours later, two small house sparrows had fallen out of the nest and onto the hard concrete. One survived, the other did not. Luckily, my mom was home to put the living bird back into his nest and lovingly dispose of the other's earthly remains.

As the day wore on, it became clear that their zeal was due to hunger. The quartet, now whittled down to a trio, chirped and gaped, crying out for food. For hours, my mother watched from the picture window inside to see if their mother would come back. She never did. At some point, it became clear that she wasn't going to. That is when the feeding began.

I came home from work that night to find my mother perched atop a step ladder, forceps in one hand and a bowl of soggy mush in the other. Not long after that, the bird house was removed from the wall and the roof removed for easier access. The transition to a tissue filled basket in an old fish tank cum incubator did not take long, and the move into intensive care aka the bathroom was really inevitable after that.

Being considered pests, house sparrows are one of few wild species that are not protected in the U.S. Because they are a non-native species, groups like the Audobon Society don't have any interest in rehabilitating them, but we do. They are living things and one can't just let them starve to death on the front porch when they've been abandoned. At least if you live in my house you can't.

The first days were challenging. The boys, Nelson, Jimbo and Johnny as we took to calling them, were not fully fledged and still needed to be fed often. Then there was the question of what to feed them. After much research, a consultation with our vet, and a trip to the pet store, the answer turned out to be a mash of ingredients like catfood (I know, go figure!), hard boiled egg, applesauce, avian vitamins and water interspersed with occasional bread soaked in water to make sure they were taking in enough liquids. This mixture had to be pushed down their gullets about every 45 minutes in the beginning.

With time the boys began to fledge and feedings increased to every hour, every two hours, etc. Along the way Johnny (he was weak and not of this world) was lost. I think the fall from the nest was probably too much for his little head. He survived for a few days, but never really recovered. The other two, however, began to thrive and develop personalities.

Nelson, the bigger of the two, is the extrovert and adventurer. He does everything first - eating on his own, flying. He is active and curious about everything, including people. I worry about him. I'm not sure he's cut out for the great out doors. We try to discourage him, but he's fond of landing on hands and heads, biting at fingernails, pecking at freckles. Jimbo is smaller, shyer, more wild. He has enough fear to do better in the wild.

I think about the prospect of letting them go. They are wild animals, not designed to be caged up in a house. Yet, through the hourly feedings, the discovery that they love watermelon, the encouraging them to fly, they have become family. I am attached. As they sleep in their new favorite place (the light fixture above the sink), I wonder about them and worry what will happen them.

Soon we will have to make some tough decisions - whether to let them go, when to let them go, where to let them go. Still, I wouldn't trade the experience of watching them go from helpless, barely fledged chicks to independant, curious young birds. It makes me realize how miraculous life really is - even the smallest life.


Back in the early days of summer, I had a dream about a bird - a dead bird. Its lifeless, feathery body lay on the back deck inside the lattice where the cats sit. Concerned the cats would get it, I moved the body just outside of lattice wide enough for a cat's paw to reach through, covered all but the feet with a napkin, then sat down to read. In that weird way of dream logic, it just made sense.

As I was reading, I caught the fluttering movement of a white napkin out of the corner of my eye, wings quivering. The bird got up, walked to the end of the deck, took a look back at me (or maybe it didn't look back after all) and flew away. It's been so long that I dont remember. I only know that he was gone.

Months later, just after the end of summer, I am thinking about people who have left. Friends, loves, one in particular. Do they ever think of me? Does he ever think of me? Or, like birds, do the just soar away?

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Yesterday as I was sitting in my car enjoying a steak and mushroom ciabatta lunch on the run before popping into Michael's to get my hands on some Halloween gold in the form of holographic, bat-shaped twinkle lights, I turned on the radio as I am sometimes wont to do. The first thing I heard was the voice of Ed Schultz proclaiming that everyone should "arm up".

Being the sort of manly man's manly man who loves sports and hunts, Schultz does sometimes pepper his show with talk of hunting. As a result, I've always assumed gun control (at the very least where hunting is concerned) is probably not his mission in life. Nonethless, the phrase "everyone arm up" did cause me to put down my (by the way delicious) sandwich in wonderment.

As it turns out, Schultz was not advocating the we all gear up for some kind of terroist/El Rapto/the end is nigh nightmare, but rather preparing to do a phone interview a city council member, Steve Jett from Greenleaf, Idaho. Apparently the town is considering a city gun ordinance recommending that every head of household own a firearm and ammunition and received the proper training to use it. The ordinance would contain exemptions for those with physical and mental disabilities, those prohibited by law, and those who just plain don't want a gun.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a big supporter of our "right to bear arms", but is this really something we need to codify? Assuming I understood Mr. Jett correctly, when the exemptions are factored in, the ordinance basically says, "If you want a gun and are not legally prohibited from having one, you should have one." Can't people do that already? Doesn't that render the ordinance superfluous?

It seems to me to be more about making some kind of point than it is about actually changing anything. But what is the point then? That we're a violent society that values fear based tactics (aka "I'm armed, so don't mess with me") over any other form of mediation or perhaps even teaching our children values that don't encompass assuming that shooting someone equals satisfactory conflict resolution. Apparently I'm not just crazy, because even though the city councilman claims great local support for the ordinance, he did admit that the local pastor has not exactly been supportive. Well, good on him, I say! When I hear these sorts of stories, I think it's no wonder that everyone thinks we're a bunch of gun toting bullies.

P.s. An interesting and not unrelated sidenote: The town of Greenleaf was apparently founded by Quakers in 1903, which somehow adds a layer of irony to the town being the center of the whether everyone should be armed question.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Latch on to the Affirmative

Despite the professional lamentation, I had a pretty good week off once any job related parts were over. Sure, it's had its ups and downs. Sad Hooter's Clown winning the spot in Not Supernova, "Go where the money is!" and gimpy, bruised knee, this fist shake is for you! Over all, though, it's been really good AND I am listening to Kelly Hogan sing Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive as I type, which always puts me in a good mood. This can only be viewed as a plus, considering the thought of returning to work tomorrow makes me want to cry. So, here is a vacation week retrospective that recognizes the ups and downs of The Wheel that seems to pop up concstantly these days, but ultimately latches on to the affirmative:

Friday: Vacation starts 6 p.m. and I have a date with my hair crush
Highlight: Purple and blonde hair
Lowlight: Having to wait 45 minutes for my hair appointment
Highlight: 45 minutes is enough time for Red Beans & Rice at Popeye's AND I now have purple hair with which to freak out the squares!

Saturday: Trip to the Beach with Jen & MQ
Highlight: The beach!
Lowlight: Cutlets are expensive, even at the outlet mall
Highlight: Money saved on cutlets purchases 3 new t-shirts and badly needed sleepwear

Sunday: Welcome DirectTV!
Highlight: I now have German t.v. AND great hopes that having a satellite dish will invite interstellar hazy cosmic jive proclaiming that all the children should boogie thereby ending the quandry of what to do with my life!
Lowlight: First show on German t.v. featured a shoeless, hobbit-like little man in Lederhosen singing Heimatsmusik
Highlight: Hobbit-like little men singing Heimatsmusik are fun to mock AND the satellite dish is slightly cheaper than cable

Monday: Interview Day
Highlight: Whee! An interview!
Lowlight: The interview & "Go where the money is!"
Highlight: Lunch downtown with friend and music writer extraordinaire Sonya & starting the class I'm taking

Tuesday: Volunteer Opportunities
Highlight: Going to an orientation on becoming a ZooGuide
Lowlight: Zoo volunteers were all wearing dorky red camp shirts
Highlight: Volunteering at the zoo sounds fun AND it looks like there is a red t-shirt alternative, which will make me feel much more comfortable and photogenic

Wednesday: A Day of Rest
Highlight: Sleeping in and having some time with the house all to myself
Lowlight: Tripping over a dog bone on the carpet and injuring my knee when I grab on to a chair with wheels for balance (no one said I was smart), then wondering if it had anything to do with my position in the discussion Jen & I were having about blasphemy and what God can handle
Highlight: I don't think God works that way

Thursday: More beach!
Highlight: Almost EVERYTHING, especially the ice cream. Oh how I love you, chocolate chip mint!
Lowlight: Seafood lunch was a bit overpriced /my knee did not find the walk to the lighthouse at Cape Meares to be as good an idea as my brain did / hearing a weird guy in the ice cream line claim that the Tillamook Cheese Factory is the most visited tourist attraction in Oregon, a distinction I had always believed went to the lovely and far more deserving Multnomah Falls. (A Google search for "Oregon & most visited" ellicits findings on most visited natural site, most visited paid attraction, etc., so I'm thinking maybe the factory is the most visited cheese selling attraction in the state.) I'm sorry (ok, you caught me, I'm not really), but the whole idea of sticking assembly line workers behind a window like a human zoo exhibit and calling it a tourist attraction has always struck me as bizarre. If they'd been Oompa Loompas, I would have sworn I was watching a scene from Charlie and the Cheese Factory.
Highlight: Good lighthouse pictures, lunch was very fresh and good, & I had an excuse to spend the evening with eating pizza and being waited on while watching My Own Private Idaho.

Friday: Escape the doldrums!
Highlight: Sleeping in & eating leftover pizza for breakfast
Lowlight: Knee still gimpy/feeling depressed
Highlight: Milkshakes with Jen, then going to a "house cooling" potluck that was rife with good food and engaging company

Saturday: Joyful noise v.s. Doldrums
Highlight: 5 hour choir rehearsal
Lowlight: Doldrums not completely escaped
Highlight: Mood is better and knee feeling rested and slightly less gimpy after a day spent mostly sitting around singing

Sunday: What happens with Sunday remains to be seen. With the end of vacation looming, I am determined to make the best of this last day. I am not sure yet how, but I know it will all work out in the end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Surf Spinning

Originally uploaded by Martina.
When I was a girl, I used to go on trips to Gleneden Beach to visit my friend. The food at her house was terrible. Her mother would buy meat off the clearance rack in the butcher's section, then bring it home and freeze it for later use. After a couple of bouts of being sent home early with mysterious stomach ailments, I quickly learned to adapt. When necessary, I temporarily converted from "omnitarian" to staunch vegetarian. I became a champion of us kids taking trips to town, so we could eat out or I could at least discretely stock up on non-tainted snacks to sustain me, since I wasn't really eating dinner. I couldn't tell her mom I didn't like the food (or that I didn't want food poisoning), so to save her feelings, I let her think I was just one of those kids who don't eat much. It was probably the only time in my life that someone thought I was anything but a hearty eater.

Despite the gastronomic challenges, I lived for these visits, because they were an adventure. My mom would take me downtown to the Greyhound bus depot and deposit me on the coastal express and my friend and her mom would pick me up at the bowling alley/bus depot in Lincoln City. Once we got to their place, I'd throw down my overnight bag, and H. and I would head to the beach.

We would spend hours splashing around in the surf, playing the sorts of childhood games that are delightfully fun and recklessly dangerous at the same time. One of our favorites was to march out into the not too deep water, then sit down cross-legged in the sand, waiting for the tide to come in, so the undertow could spin us around while we laughed and laughed. Never once considering that the same undertow could easily sweep us out to sea, we found this activity to be the height of good times. If my mother had only known, I think she might have killed me herself (or at least have reacted in the same way she did when she found me and two other friends repeatedly jumping off the top of their small barn and into a huge pile of hay. That was not a good day for base jumping.)

That's the thing about being a kid, though. They're fearless. They know what is fun, they know what they want, and they just DO IT. Where is it along the way that we lose that certainty?

I ask, because on Monday I went to what was almost the weirdest job interview I have ever had. The weirdest job interview I've ever had was the time I was invited for to interview for a position because the interviewer had calculated my age based on my high school graduation dates on the application and wanted to check me out, because he felt there might be a date prospect in a young woman, who had an MA and spoke a few languages. Apparently, I passed the test, because he invited me for dinner. I declined.

Anyway, back to Monday. Monday I headed downtown to interview with an agency for a position as Executive Assistant at an international import company. The encounter started with me being asked to take some tests that involved typing and alphabetizing things on a computer screen while an odd little bleach blonde, with leathery skin tanned to the color of a crisply burnt sienna paced back and forth outside the window. Good news! All those student loans paid off! The results are in, and there's no doubt that I know my alphabet! Woo hoo!

The test did tip me off that the interview might not be the success for which I had hoped. Ever curious, I decided to stick it out. I was already downtown and would have had to wait around for my lunch date anyway, so I headed off to meet with the owner of the agency. Instead of an interview, what I got was a counseling session and discussion about whether there were any Director level positions I could apply for at my current company. At some point in the exchange (and I use the term "exchange" loosely, since I really wasn't allowed to do much talking), I found myself tuning out and just nodding politely as the recruiter spewed platitudes like "go where the money is", "look at the people in the positions you want and dress like them", or "find out who to suck up to". I don't know if she thought I was younger than I am (people sometimes do), but she seemed to position herself in the role of seasoned professional offering a youth life advice. In her own way, I think she thought she was being helpful. The meeting ended with the her telling me to think about it, then assuring that she would put me in for some jobs if that's what I "really wanted" and me questioning what the hell it is that I was doing in the first place.

And here I sit, still wondering and wishing for the days when it was all as clear as "spinning in the sand is fun". I know I'm never going to be some great corporate success story. Before anyone thinks that is self-esteem talking, let me make clear that I know I could be, if I set my mind to it. The thing is that I don't know that I care. I don't care "where the money is" and I don't suck up. Whatever it might be, I make myself good at my job. As a result, even in my current position, which is almost sub-terranean on the corporate totem pole, a lot of the VP's and SVP's know me and have even encouraged me to aspire to greater things within our organization. It is not like I'm a professional loser. It is more that I haven't (at least professionally speaking) found that thing that stirs my heart and gives me a passion for what I do.

The things that do stir my heart are the ones where I find most of my insecurity. Despite the interest I have in things like writing, singing, taking pictures, most of the time I feel like a creative wannabe, a dilettante.

The thing is that when I look around, there are a LOT of people just like me. I meet them every day - friends, acquaintances from church, at work, at volunteer orientations, etc.). They're not always the people you would expect them to be either. Sometimes it's the people who look most successful who have the biggest holes in their souls.

What does this all ultimately mean? I don't know, I'm still thinking about it and trying to fill my time with the things that are meaningful to me and that do make me laugh. I have one theory that says that with the right attidue and some self-discipline my non-demanding job could be turned into the kind of day job that leaves me time to write, sing, and create things. On the other hand, it seems like there should be more to my professional life than being micromanaged into oblivion by a high strung boss who has no trust for her employees. Somewhere, somehow, I need to find a balance. I don't want to drown, but I do still want the exhilarating feeling of spinning in the undertow and laughing just a little.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Adventures in Vacationland

After far too long without using any vacation time, I finally have a week off. Considering that the Wheel of Disgust is currently at a high point in its rotation as pertains to certain aspects of my work, it is a good time for some distance from my place of employment. What better way to distance oneself than a trip to the beach? There's nothing like the vastness of the ocean. Somehow it always helps me to put things into perspective.

So, Saturday morning Jen, MQ and I ignored the nay-sayers and prophesiers of rain and doom and took off for a day of beachy fun in the greater Lincoln City area. While Lincoln City itself is not the prettiest town on the Oregon Coast, it has a number of things to recommend it:

1) Devil's Lake. Despite one of my fellow travellers deeming lakes "creepy", I want to stay at the little hotel there sometime for a writing weekend. There's just something appealing about me and my laptop in a little room with a window overlooking the lake.

2) Outlet Stores with salty air, sea mist, an Old Navy (hooray $5 t-shirts!), and a cutlet emporium (sorry, Maidenform, we may meet again, but I STILL think I can do better than $29.95)

3) A great Thai restaurant. Who'd have thought it? Plus, it had free food (though that may have had more to do with MQ paying for my lunch than it being an actual restaurant policy).

4) Siletz Bay (though we didn't stop there this time). I love going there and watching the sea lions lounge on the sand across the water on Salishan spit.

5) Proximity to Gleneden Beach, which is a quiet little town that holds a lot of youthful memories for me. It is also home to The Crystal Wizard, which is a lovely little store as long as no one is playing with that infernal singing bowl, which is supposed to align one's chakras or something, but really just makes me want to me align someone's eyeball with an ice pick. I don't know what it is about the sound that irritates me so much, but its tone makes me seriously want to rethink my commitment to non-violence.

Eye gouging aside, it turned out to be a lovely day, and I am happy to report that the Crystal Wizard remained peaceful and no arrests were made, which always makes for a good first day of vacation!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what it has to say.

- Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho first came into my life ten years ago when I met a man whose name I don't remember. I remember that he was short. I remember that he was a sound mixer. I remember that he thought a lot of himself and the celebrity names he liked to drop. I remember that our first date was also our last. All in all, it would not have been a memorable encounter at all had this pretentious, little man not recommended a wonderful book to me - Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

Despite the dubious character of the recommender, the book turned out to be a great recommendation. I like to think that this just supports the old adage that the right things come to us at the right time no matter what their mode of travel. Over time The Alchemist has become one of my favorite stories in no small part due to the deceptive simplicity of Coelho's language and narrative style. Considering that the novel has sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into 56 languages, I am apparently not the only one who admires Mr. Coelho's craft. Also, he has a fascinating life story, which is well worth the trip to read his biography on his website or for the jucier details his Wikipedia entry, even if you don't choose to read his novel. For these reasons, The Alchemist seemed like a natural choice when it came to selecting a first volume for my reading group this summer.

We are a diverse group that includes a grad student, a social worker, a retired teacher, a former Methodist minister, and a couple of corporate types. Some of us are straight. Some of us are gay. Some are American, some German, and some Filipino. We come from different backgrounds, but share that we are all open minded and wanting to learn from each other. That makes for fertile ground for captivating discussions.

What made our discussion of The Alchemist so interesting was the the lessons the book held for each of us were so diverse. What for me was a story about the nature of dreams and their pursuit was for others a statement about love or The Universe. Of course, it is all those things and more.

This is, in my mind, one of the hallmarks of a great novel. A well crafted novel has layers and delves into its themes deeply enough that one can read it again and again and keep coming away with something different each time. I read a wide variety of books - some more serious than others. The ones I keep turning back to are the ones that grow with me.

For me, The Alchemist has always been one of those books. It is one of those works that I turn to at those times when the Wheel of Fortune is spinning out of control and I can't seem to find my way back to the relative safety of its hub. At those moments, The Alchemist's message that the universe will conspire to help us, if we just follow the our has never failed me as a dependable source of comfort.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wedding Dresses

Today I went to Miss M.'s wedding. If I'm going to be honest, there are a number of reasons why I wasn't exactly grooving on the prospect of going. Nonetheless, ever one to view everything as a learning experience I went. Here is what I learned:

1. The Church of the Nazarene is not the church for me.

2. The phrase "fear of God" does not belong in a wedding ceremony. (The same goes for "wrath of God", "ire of God", "the terrible vengeance of the Lord shall rain down upon you" as well as the words "fry", "fritter" and "abomination unto the Lord".)

3. A woman can have a "more of me to love" body type and still look beautiful and radiant in her wedding gown. (What is it about happiness that makes people so attractive?)

4. Anyone singing a solo at a wedding needs to be able to carry a tune. I'm all for nepotism, but I'm unbending on this.

5. The walking down the aisle music should not be plodding, and organ should be avoided at all costs.

6. If you're going to have a maid of honor, find one who will not bail out on planning the bridal shower at the last minute due to creative differences (or not "having faith" in the impending marriage).

6a. I am not as nice as the former Miss M. She still invited said maid to the wedding and even used her daughter as flower girl. I would not have invited her or at least seated her at the table with the "backstabbing bitch", "nemesis" and "leper" place cards at the reception. (Though perhaps it giving nemeses and backstabbing bitches the opportunity to talk is not the wisest course of self-protective action. It would be fun to pay the leper to bump into them and watch them contract leprosy, though. Okay, it wouldn't really. With my penchant for self-imposed guilt, I would end up living out my days in misery, because of what I had wrought. Besides, being an instrument of leprosy, even if an indirect one, isn't exactly nice.)

7. If you're going to wear a low cut dress, look into cutlets. If the girls are going to be on display, they might as well be served up on display.

8. Weddings are a good excuse to buy or make a new dress.

9. I really should make more dresses, because the one I made (ok, I cut it out, my mom did the actual sewing) turned out wonderfully! It fit perfectly and was made of happy fabric with jaunty red, yellow, pink, and orange tulips on a white background.

10. It's good to have friends who give you free happy fabric with jaunty red, yellow, pink, and orange tulips on a white background, because if you can find a pattern and zipper on sale, the whole dress only costs $6.

11. If you're attending a wedding out in the greater Nowhere metropolitan area, Big Burger in Mollala is a good place to stop for lunch on the way home. It's no Big Jim's, but will do in a pinch.

12. It would be nice if the vivid wedding dream I had a few months ago were precognitive. I'm not holding my breath, though. My John Wesley Harding and the Magic Bus dream was vivid too and it did not come true, not even the part about the monkey butler.

13. Watching Miss M become Mrs. M made me realize that if my master plan to become a spinster surrounded by 15 cats doesn't pan out, I need to have another plan in place. Some of the points above are a good start.

Misty Water Colored Memories

Last night I dreamt of you, o Saturn, first new car of my youth. I was wanting to go somewhere and realized my Toyota was out of gas, so I decided to take you instead. It made me wake up thinking of all the places we've been to appease your Wanderlust...

We've driven to work on snowy days (thank you for not breaking down!)

How Furby shook his bon bon as Supergrover and Jen cheered him on as we crossed the plains, passing long church spires and talking wires on the Westward journey.

And who could forget the cheap, secret parking at Mt. Rushmore or the Mitchell Corn Palace, unrecognized 8th Wonder of the World? Not I...

Your new people may give you running from hornets, but I gave you the World (or at least the Great West of slightly East of the Missippi).