Even birds can have a lapse in judgement

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For the past two mornings, I have been brought back from my slumber into consciousness by an obnoxious sound.  Before I share my story, let me first paint a scene in your mind.

Picture a tiny white cottage nestled in the midst of three acres of extensive woodland.  The dense underbrush is stippled by towering century-old Maple and Oak trees that seem closer to the sun than to the ground.  Branches perpetually invite forest creatures to share their space and many birds use the strong limbs to begin their spring ritual of attracting a potential mate.  The songs of the frogs fill the night air as the barred owls call from one tree to another.  These soothing noises lull me into sleep.

Mornings are usually accompanied by the soundtrack of chirping birds.  The melodies of Chickadees and Red-winged Black Birds are the first strains I hear and they help me welcome the morning with a peaceful sigh…..until yesterday.

My rhythmic breathing was suddenly caught in my throat as I was rudely awakened by the simulated sound of a jack hammer.  The noise would stop long enough for me to hear the fading echo and then begin again.  In the middle of this wooded sanctuary, a Pileated Woodpecker was pounding his beak on the old TV antenna that is affixed to the house directly beside my bedroom window.  This beautiful, albeit destructive bird, truly could not see the forest for the trees.  Although surrounded by a plethora of massive trunks, it chose to continue to bang its beak on the metal tower and showed up again this morning to do it all over again.

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I caved to the will of the shortsighted bird and got up early to take my dog for a walk.  The familiar sounds of the usual morning creatures were there to walk with us and when we got close to home, I heard the familiar banging sound coming from my neighbors house.  Out of the myriad number of trees to select from, this bird had found the only two needles in nature’s haystack.  I can only wonder how long it will take this feather-brained bird to realize it’s barking up the wrong tree.

 

The Church of the Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

church of the loaves and fishes

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

A built-in rinse cycle

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I have to post this story again because the pattern seems to have emerged again today.

Working in the hospitality business goes hand in hand with working long hours.  I can adapt to the hours but my dog is the one who takes the brunt of my lifestyle.  I will never leave her outside on a chain to battle the elements – she is firmly ensconced in our home, lazily spending her hours watching the wildlife from the comfort of my bed.  I have several people who are more than willing to come over and let her out during the day because she is such a happy dog and, for me, having her be the excuse to leave work for thirty minutes is wonderful.

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(a much younger Callaway)

During these long days, I often wonder how she invests her time.  Is she reorganizing my kitchen cabinets?  Has she mastered the satellite remote?  Does she inventory my refrigerator?  But each day when I get home from my struggle to survive my sometimes 10-14 hour days, she is there to greet me and nothing in the house seems out-of-place.  Until recently…..

I returned home from my usual work day and I was greeted by the reassuring excitability that I have come to expect.  The house, as usual, was completely intact.  The garbage was untouched and the serene ambiance wrapped its arm around my shoulder and pulled me into its embrace to welcome me home.

My attention was immediately diverted to the duvet cover on my bed and what seemed to be a single article of clothing bunched up in the middle of the bed.  It wasn’t shredded, however the entire shirt was extremely damp.  She had been licking my shirt and focusing her attention on the armpits of the shirt.

Now you have to understand that my closet is hidden by a decorative cloth shower curtain that poses as a makeshift door.  Somehow, she was able to pull back the shroud of the curtain, move the articles of clothing she had no interest in, leaving them in a heap on the floor, and gingerly lift the shirt from the middle of the pile of laundry in the basket.  She also strategically replaced the curtain so nobody would catch on to her devious plot.

As much as I miss her during my day, it broke my heart to realize how much she truly missed me during her day.  The writing was on the wall, or in this case on the bed.  My scent comforted her during her lonely day while she waits for me to return home.

We are only at the beginning of our busy season but, before I know what happened, my work days will become shorter and more structured.  My time with her will increase and perhaps her need to be close to my deodorant-saturated shirts will abate somewhat because I will be here in the physical form and not just the odoriferous form.

And who knows, perhaps in the meantime I can save myself a fortune on laundry!

When you don’t want to mince words

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sure_logoIt is no secret that I love words.  I like to articulate my responses in a way that is concise without being too verbose, but I do like to phrase my answers in a meaningful way – especially if I am replying to a significantly valuable question.  I want people to know I have truly ingested the words they have spoken and taken the time to formulate a well-constructed response.

But there are those less wordy than I, those who choose to avoid the commitment of a lengthy answer and spare any unwarranted emotion by responding with a simple, one-word comment.  While that single word may convey the necessary feedback to the initial query, sometimes the person posing the question is left thinking that the responder cannot be bothered to take the time to formulate a proper retort.

Upon chatting with a friend, he told his tale of how he had fallen victim to the easy out of a one-word answer.   He had received a rather detailed text and he simply wrote back “Sure”.  After I had admonished him for his complete avoidance of all other words in the English language, we both had a good laugh.

He was incensed by his own lack of effort and every time he repeated the word ‘sure’, we laughed even more.  After we had expelled all the laughter we could, obviously at his expense, he thought it would make a great idea for a blog post and asked if I would be able to write about it.  I said the only thing I could think of – “sure”.

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A new way to hitch a ride

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For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee.  They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed.  I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand.  I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.

I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether.  I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer.  These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided.  More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.

On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open.  One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty.  She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose.  The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.

Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds.  As Misty began  thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast.  The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird.  It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock.  Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run.  She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics.  (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house.  I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.

After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting.  I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard.  The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.

With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved.  World record or not, that was one hell of a ride!  After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants.  It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.

What is your funniest childhood memory?

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…..

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I may not always follow the letter of the law when it comes to my health.  I have been guilty of eating things that are more processed than my hair after it has been freshly dyed.  I have been known to imbibe in some alcoholic beverages which is frowned on….depending on which new study you read.  And I have been culpable of using over-the-counter nasal sprays that wreak havoc on my blood pressure.

Thankfully I am not a hypochondriac and I only take up space in my doctor’s office when I truly have a medical issue or need a prescription refilled.  The moments are few and far between that I will put myself through the painstaking process of arriving considerately early at the office, getting in exceedingly late for my scheduled appointment and then feeling like I am taking up too much of my physician’s time by asking questions.

It took me a while to warm up to my doctor’s “desk-side” manner but I truly appreciate the fact that she does not sugar-coat her curative banter.  I have had my share of real health issues that warranted a trip to the hallowed dominion of her office and I came out wondering if there were a few chapters in her medical books that other doctors had not been privileged enough to read.

I had a severe case of Pneumonia two years ago that could have possibly been diagnosed as a lung infection.  I had been so sick that I purposely subjected myself to a walk-in clinic…..in the middle of the afternoon…….on a Saturday.  After being prescribed a drug that made me feel like I had been chronically licking a tire-iron for a week, I made an appointment to follow up with my doctor.

hippocratic oath

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I was given the good news that the intensely strong medication had its desired effect and my lungs sounded relatively normal.  During the course of my regaling her with my intermittent trips to the office while sick with Pneumonia she casually expressed a few primitive medical terms, obviously from the book that only she received in med school.

The first archaic phrase was uttered and I was called an “idiot”.  This is a much shorter version of the 19th Century diagnosis that was identified as a “profound intellectual disability”.

Approaching with caution, I summoned up the courage to then mention the truthful number of times I had been to the office, and out in public, during my illness and I was then diagnosed as “stupid”.  I have since examined an alternate medical journal a little more closely and found that analysis of my symptoms to be defined as Fecal Encephalopathy which, roughly translated, means “shit for brains”.

I have always held on to the hope that my doctor has remained on the cutting edge of technology, that she is one of the few rural doctors that truly has her finger on the pulse of modern medicine.  What I had not prepared myself for was the fact that she was reverting back to honest medicine and just calling a spade a spade.