How I Learned I Am Not a Penguin

I learned something very important the other day.

Skiing sucks.

The Christmas season blew by me this season in a flurry of gift wrap, hugs, and wood chips.  I worked the majority of my Christmas break, so when I wasn’t working, I was shopping, wrapping, cleaning, and doing all the other wonderful things that adults have to do during the Christmas season that make you want to be a little kid again.  I got plenty of wonderful gifts, including a Kindle Fire, a sapphire necklace, a fair trade bag and shawl, a willow tree nativity scene, and four bags of lindt chocolate (everyone seems to know what I like).  Our family present this year was a day trip to Seven Springs, the local ski resort.  Mostly, this present was for my little brother, Lucas, because he got a snowboard for Christmas and there is nowhere he can go to try it out.  

I don’t really know what my dad was expecting, taking three people who have never skied before in their lives and strapping five foot long pieces of wood to their feet and telling them have at it.  As soon as we got outside and strapped our skis to our feet, me, my sister, and Lance were falling all over each other.  Just standing up had us sliding down the hill outside the resort.  To save money, my dad didn’t schedule any of us for lessons and instead just tried to instruct us himself.   He assured us that it would take only an hour or so to get used to the skis and then we would be having fun and doing great.  

This is how you are supposed to look when you are skiing: 

This is how I looked the whole day:  

It just wasn’t working.  I struggled trying to get myself onto the people movers that moved you back up the tiny baby hills, and then when I would try to ski down, I would get going too fast, couldn’t stop, and have to fall to save myself.  And skis are not very forgiving when it comes to standing back up after a fall.  Before you’ve even righted yourself, they are trying to go down the hill.  And you are sliding along on your butt behind them.  Lance did slightly worse than me as he is the most uncoordinated person I know, so at least I always had someone who was doing worse than me.  He, however, had a much better attitude about it and enjoyed it more than I did.  

Not to mention that skiing is a lot of work!  The boots are heavy, the skis are bulky and weird, and before long I was sweating like a pig.  Little kids who probably weren’t potty trained yet were doing better than I was.

Finally, we got good enough on the baby slope that we could make it to the bottom without falling down and my dad decided we were good enough to go on the first green trail.  We rode the lift up, which was a terrifying experience, and I immediately wiped out trying to get off the lift.  We started down the green trail, and I spent the whole way down trying to snow plow myself and keep myself from going out of control.  No one told me that at the end of the slope, all the trails funnel together onto a blue slope to exit.  

I took my skis off and walked down the mountain.  

There were ten-year olds speeding by me.  It was embarrassing.  I think my issue has to do with the speed of the skis.  I don’t care how many people tell me to snow plow, pizza, or whatever else they tell me to do.  It doesn’t make me in control.  And I don’t like not being in control of where and how fast my body is hurtling down a snowy hill.  So, when I would pick up speed and couldn’t slow down, I simply wiped out.  I don’t know if I wasn’t pushing hard enough into my skis (I have bruises all around my ankles from shoving them into the snow) or if it was because I wanted to go down the mountain at a crawl when you are supposed to be flying, but I just couldn’t get it.  That night I went home and couldn’t fall asleep because instead of having those annoying ‘falling’ dreams that jolt you out of a sleep, I had ‘flying down the mountain out of control’ dreams.  

A lot of little kids had these really neat ski leashes.  Their parents skied behind them and kept them from flying down the hill out of control.  I asked my dad if he would get me one of those, but he said that it would be embarrassing to ski behind his daughter who was old enough to go to the bar and order a drink.  However, I envied those kids.

It just wasn’t the great time that my dad intended it to be, at least for me.  I’m pretty sure if God intended for me to fly down the hill like a penguin, he would have either a) made me a penguin, or b) borne me with five foot long pieces of wood jutting from my feet.  Since he didn’t, I think I’ll be glad to stay on solid, non snowy ground.  I hope next years family present includes a horseback riding trip!


The Horse Bug

Most people I meet don’t know anymore that before I was the crazy bird lady I was the crazy horse lady.  All my life before college I was the little girl who had gotten bit by the horse bug and was crazy for more.  A pony was the first thing on my Christmas list each year, I read every Saddle Club, Thoroughbred, and Phantom Stallion book I could get my hands on.  I had a massive collection of Grand Champion horse figurines, and if you would have asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I would have answered ‘Anything as long as I could have my horses’.  When I was 13 years old, my parents bought me my first horse, Sugar B.  He was the most gorgeous 6-year-old quarter horse gelding I had ever seen, and to this day I think he was the most handsome horse I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.  

Me and Sugar B

Lance and I riding!

Me and Sugar at a horse show

I’m pretty sure Sugar was the thing that kept me such a straight arrow for all those years.  If a dad wants to keep his little girl his little girl longer, there’s no better treatment than a horse.  He kept me busy so I had no time to get involved in less healthy things, he kept me focused on something other than friend drama and cattiness, and he was a strong boy deterrent.  Even when I started dating Lance, he knew that the horse ranked higher than him.    I got him right when I went into my awful teen angst years and he remained my companion all the way until I was accepted and leaving for college.  I wanted so badly to keep him while I was in college, but unfortunately my parents told me they were going to stop paying board on him and I was going to have to pay for school, pay for everything involving the horse, and pay for my other animals as well.  I’m not super woman here.  So, grudgingly, I sold him.  I regret the decision I made every day.  The people who I sold him to seemed to genuinely love him, so I lowered my price for them and allowed them to take my partner of 7 years away from me.  Less than two months later they had resold him and I have no clue where he is anymore.  I only hope he’s well taken care of.  

After I sold Sugar, I really didn’t want anything to do with horses.  I couldn’t own my own, I couldn’t ride whenever I wanted, and I felt so depressed.  I threw myself into my birds and my future career as a vet so that someday I can have horses again.  Sometimes I think that I am so obsessive over my homework because it is secretly my horse obsession manifesting itself in a different light.  However, after the initial sting started to soften, I started wanting to ride again.  And how lucky am I that one of my best friends has a horse?

Ella and I have been friends since high school and I was totally pumped when she transferred to Chatham from Seton Hill because it was right down the road from me!  She knew me before I had a horse, after I got a horse, and after I sold my horse, so we’ve been through a lot of horse-ness together.  And because riding is never fun a lone, every time she is planning on going riding, she invites me and I get to go get a little fill of horses.

I, being the shorter one, always ride Sassy, a cute little rocky mountain horse.  I adore Sassy.  She is so sweet and so good.  Shes always very willing and when we race, she always puts her heart into it and keeps up with the long-legged Ella and Belle.  

Me and Sassy

Sassy crossing a river. Me, smiling like I won the lottery.

This last time that we went to ride, it was drizzling a little.  So, being the creative college students we are, we just opted for no saddles and jumped on bareback and hit the trails.  Of course, a massive downpour started, but we didn’t really care.  Neither of us had seen a horse since October, so we were intending on getting our full fill.  I felt like a kid at Christmas, or one of those girls out of the Saddle Club.  We scaled hills, raced each other, and rode for at least two hours with no saddle.  We crossed some creeks and crossed some roads and barreled through some woods to make a new trail with no saddles.  However, after we both felt it, and I have a huge brush burn on my butt from the horses spine rubbing my wet jeans against my skin over and over again.  Ouch!

Ella and Belle

I think my favorite thing about Sassy is she is nothing like Sugar.  She’s short while he was tall.  She’s gaited while he wasn’t.  She’s a girl and he was a boy.  She is very relaxed after running while he would stay hot.  She’s more pushy in the field while he was very passive.  They don’t really have anything in common except that they were both horses.  I like that I don’t have to see him every time I am enjoying a ride on her.  It makes riding much easier.  

Me and Sassy

Someday, I’ll have horses again.  It might take a long time, but someday I will.  And I know if I ever have children, I won’t be selling their horses when they go away to college. 

Higgins Worldly Cuisine Review

The last time we went out to a bird fair I picked up some of the Higgins Worldly Cuisine packets to try with my guys.  I’m always busy, so sometimes finding time to get all the ingredients together and make my own mixture is tough.  I usually just give them some of whatever we are making for dinner, but the Worldly Cuisines looked pretty tasty and I needed something else bird related to spend my money on.  

I bought the Moroccan Cafe Blend, which had a lot of rice in it, and my picky cockatiels usually like rice.  The back label said to cook the food on the stove top, but I’m really lazy and made it in the microwave by covering it and microwaving it for five minutes and stirring it every minute and a half.  

When I took it out, it smelled divine.  I know birds aren’t suppose to be able to smell, but Bella was on my shoulder and started getting excited and edging towards the microwave before she even saw the bowl.  Maybe she just knows by now her lazy mother takes all of her treats out of the microwave lol.  
As weird as it is, I always taste their food before I give them it, because in my opinion, if I’m going to give something to my parrots it has to be suitable for human consumption.  It was pretty tasty, even for a human!  It tasted kind of like plain rice with some apple and something sweet like brown sugar in it.  Anyways, it passed my taste test, so I mixed in a packet of ornabac because no one likes eating probiotics with their pellets and some of the Higgins Snack Attack Leafy Greens and Herbs to give it some extra flavor and dished it all out to everyone.  They all seemed to like it!

Bella, trying some of her Moroccan Blend!

One of the Reasons I Love My Life

Me Hand Feeding a Baby Chinchilla

Everyone has days that make them want to crawl down a hole and hibernate like a turtle, and today I had one of those days.  I was peed on twice at work, had to endure four hours of listening to an unhappy person complain about their life, and more than one of the dogs that I had to restrain today smelled really bad, which meant I smelled like stinky old dog the whole day.  I came home tired, smelly, and with a headache.  

When I was little and used to tell my parents that I loved animals and wanted to work with them someday, they totally discouraged me.  ‘”If you make something your work, you will end up hating it,” they used to tell me.  “Pick something that your good at that you won’t mind doing and leave animals your hobby.”  I couldn’t imagine a life without loving animals, so up until just a few years ago I took their advice and searched fruitlessly for another option that I would wouldn’t mind doing that didn’t involve animals.  Truth be told, everything else in the world requires a lot of nice-y nice-y people skills and butt kissing and I couldn’t even dream of doing that for the rest of my life.

Maybe some days, like today, I don’t entirely enjoy my choice in career path.  And let’s face it, when you clean cages to earn your money, it makes it pretty difficult to want to come home and clean more cages.  But there are so many other days that I enjoy what I do that it makes it impossible to regret my decision.  Like this adorable chinchilla!  So what that I’m dressed in a grossly over-sized shirt with no make up on or my hair straightened?  He doesn’t care!  He just cares that I feed him at 2pm and 7pm and squeaks and peeps happily at me while I cuddle him.  Or the fact that as soon as my key is in the doorknob, all my birds go nuts to greet me when I walk through.  

I really feel blessed that everyday I see that I am making a difference, maybe not to so many people (although I feel like I do) but most defiantly in the lives of animals.  And they appreciate it so much more than the people. 

Bella’s Story

I was sitting here trying to think of something interesting I could post about, and I decided that it might be interesting to write an installment about each of my birds and how they fell into my ownership.  I’ve written a little blurb about each of them in the Our Flock section, but it doesn’t really highlight the extent the extent and the urgency that I took some of them out of.

Bella’s story is by far the most interesting and involved.  She makes everyone else seem pretty lack luster to be honest.  And if there was ever an animal that I wish I could see what they went through when I wasn’t around, it would be Bella.

Bella was born and bred at the little pet store I work at.  She was the youngest of a clutch of three chicks, and there were only two clutches laid, so she was the youngest of six chicks.  Her parents stopped producing shortly after Bella was hatched.

I first met Bella sometime in August right after I got my job at the pet store.  Because the store is family owned, we often take in people’s animals that they no longer want and put them back up for adoption, hoping another family will come and give them a home.  These animals have a smaller ‘rehoming fee’ instead of a price tag and often go home with their cage and their toys that they came in with.  Bella had come back to the store after being purchased two years prior.  Red throated conures are pretty rare, and not many people in this area have heard of them so I didn’t even know what she was when I first saw her.  I had been thinking about getting another bird, maybe another cockatiel or a green cheek conure, but there was definately something about Bella that drew me to her.  My boss told me that she had been bought for a child, who no longer had an interest in her and the mother couldn’t stand her screaming.  She then went to live with an old lady who took pretty good care of her, but died.  She went through a few relatives while they sorted out the will and such, and then she went back to the child and the mother who hated her.  Finally, in desperation, they brought her back to the store because they couldn’t stand her anymore and just wanted her gone.

Bella was nervous and nippy at the store, but she wasn’t mean.  Her rehoming fee was far less than what she had origionally been marked at, and for a two year old red throated conure, she was a steal.  Bella was quickly put on layway by an older man.  

However, as time went on, Bella still sat at the store.  The man stopped answering our phone calls.  Three months time passed and Bella’s layways was voided at the beginning of December, just in time to be homeless for Christmas.  

Christmas Eve came and another guy came into the store and expressed an interest in Bella.  He had come and bought several animals from us before, but it never seemed like he kept them very long.  He always was rehoming or reselling his  pets for some reason or another and it really didn’t sit right with any of us at the store.  He asked to buy Bella, and my boss gave him a speech about how she had been through a lot and if he wanted to take her, he needed to be prepared to give her a lifetime home, as she had already been through so many changes and her sweet, trusting demeanor had already been compromised because of it.  He assured us that he has been thinking about getting a bird for a long time and that he loved her, blah blah blah.  He took Bella home that day.

The Christmas season went by, and two weeks after selling Bella my manager started telling me about she didn’t think that guy had her anymore.  She said that he came in to buy crickets, but nothing for the bird, and when she asked about her, he just kind of mumbled and didn’t really say anything and left in a hurry.  We all had our suspicions and everyone felt really bad.

A few weeks later, I was googling bird toys in Pittsburgh.  Somehow that brought me to Craigslist where I was staring face to face with an ad for a red throated conure.  

I immediately emailed the guy, trying to find out the birds name even though I was almost sure it was her.  I went to work and showed my boss and manager, and I tried to come up with a plan on how to execute a rescue.  

The guy emailed me back and I found out that Bella was not being sold from the origional guy who bought her.  He had apparently sold her again, and now this guy was selling her.  I was disgusted.  The asking price was a whole $150 more than she had been rehomed for at the pet store.  I emptied my savings account while my parents were at work and drove someplace I had never heard of before to go rescue a bird.  I knew it wasn’t very smart, but it was something I had to do.

When I got there, I was led down to a basement bedroom.  Bella was in a ferret cage between a big lizard and a snake.  There were no windows in the room and everywhere I looked there were reptiles.  She bit me as soon as I tried to pick her up, but I didn’t really care.  I asked for a box and handed over the money and belted her into the car.  

Halfway home, I realized I was in trouble.  I had no cage for this bird, no food except for the Walmart seed mixture he had given to me, no conure sized toys, and I didn’t even have any perches because all of my birds were handicapped!  Plus, my parents, who had said no more birds three birds ago, were going to kill me!!  So I went to the only place that I thought could help me; my work!

And help me they did.  When I showed them Bella and told them what I had done to get her, they gave me a cage, food, perches, toys, everything I could need to get her started at my house.  They thought I was crazy, but as animal lovers, they understood.  Then I had to think of a way to break it to my parents.  I texted them both ‘you’re going to kill me’.  They’re immediate thoughts?  I wrecked the car or was pregnant.  So much faith in me.  Needless to say, they were relieved when I texted them a picture of a green parrot.  Relieved, but still not happy.

Later than night, Bella decided I was her human.  I was trying to talk to Lance on the phone and crawled up into my loft bed while my mom was trying to become friends with Bella down on the floor.  Bella had been sitting on the top of her cage, but as soon as I crawled up out of site, she crawled down and began pacing, trying to find me.  My mom ended up called me down because she was going so nuts trying to find me.  I think my mom was disappointed; she has always wanted a bird that would ride around on your shoulder with you and that wants to be with you.  I think she was hoping Bella would bond with her and be her bird.  Bella had different plans though.  

At first, I couldn’t stand Bella’s clingy-ness.  She wasn’t just content to sit on my lap and get her head pet like my other birds.  She wanted to climb up next to my head and snuggle into my hair.  She wanted to hide under my ponytail.  She wanted to preen me, constantly!  And when I wasn’t around, she screamed.  Getting her settled in was a hard time period.  She drove me nuts being so clingly, she drove everyone else nuts screaming, and she started getting aggressive towards everyone.  If someone wanted to sit next to me on the couch and Bella was out, she would climb off my shoulder, walk over, and attack them.  

Thankfully, Bella has settled down and become much more laid back from where she was.  She still bites; especially strangers.  When I come back from school for breaks, she goes into ‘clingy conure phase’ but after a few days goes back to being self sufficient.  And she still screams.  A lot.  

I’m very happy I rescued Bella.  I’ve given her a chance at a new life that she wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken her.  Aside from being moody and loud, Bella is very goofy and adventurous.  She is playful and silly, and she loves making people laugh.  She’s has opened up and become very loving at times, and loves to cuddle next to me or preen my hair when shes out.  She loves going out for car rides and visiting pet stores, but she still doesn’t like being handled by strangers.  She’s tough and go with Lance, mostly because she hates that he takes my attention away from her.

And ultimately, I believe she changed my life.  Lance says that it was the day I brought her home that I decided I wanted to be a vet.  He said that when he asked me why, I said ‘because I have this bird, and I like helping her, and I want to help other things’.  Honestly, I don’t remember it all that well.  The days after bringing Bella home were a big blur.  But, I’ll trust his judgement on it lol.  

And even though I’m at school half the time and she’s here, Bella’s species can live to be 25 to 30 years old, and shes currently 4.  I think we have a lot of time to get to know each other 🙂

The Dreaded Finals Week!

Finals week.  

The reason I have been  missing in action.  The reason my room is a mess.  The reason I haven’t called my mother and the reason my boyfriend sees me only once a day.

Finals week is by far the worst week out of my life.  I am a horrible finals week tester.  For some reason, even though my focus is unyielding throughout the entire semester and I can put my nose to the grind stone, finals week brings out the worst in me.  At the time that I need to be studying hard, understanding concepts, and making a huge dent in my pile of homework, I find myself struggling to even sit at my desk and absorb anything.  It’s like my learning button has turned off in my head.  

Lets face it:  I’m burnt out.  

I’ve discovered that most students take finals week as a get out of jail for free card on all of their behavior.  They try to make up for lost time by sitting in the library for hours, making it impossible for all the usual library dwellers to get a seat, they consume an unusually high level of Starbucks, and they invert their sleeping habits from studying during the day and sleeping at night to sleeping during the day and studying at night, a phenomenon I just can’t understand.  Still, even though it is finals week, I go to sleep at night and just put in the extra hours of studying during the day, when I would usually be hanging out with Lance or doing some other homework or club related activity.  My sleep doesn’t suffer.

However, my focus does.  I only have six more days until this whole semester is done and over with, and its like I can’t even convince myself to push out the last few days.  My body has said enough is enough and my brain is shutting down.  Not good.  I totally don’t understand two of the major concepts in Organic Chemistry at all, and I still need to read two chapters for Cellular and Molecular Biology.   And that’s not even getting into my biostats class or my online geography final.  

 I’m hoping tomorrow I can really bust my butt on some of this stuff.  It’s so important that I do well, but it’s like I’m just shutting down.  So frustrating.  My will wants to go but my mind keeps saying no lol.  It’s on vacation already.

I think my body is also depressed because I turn 21 on the 12th and what do I get for my birthday?  A final!  And a final the day after!  Oh goodie!

So, that is why I haven’t written in a while.   I will be back after December 13th.