The Solution to my Cook Out Dilemma!

I’ve finally figured it out!  The answer that I have been pondering since I became a vegetarian!  How to find something substantial to eat at friends get togethers!

I’m quickly coming up on my one year anniversary of being a vegetarian, but this will be my first summer as an herbivore.  In the last year, I have struggled through learning what is available at fast food restaurants, have survived eating tons of stir fry at school, and have eaten strictly side dishes at holidays.  However, with Memorial Day being a mere day away, I realized I was faced with yet another tough challenge; how to eat at cook outs without starving to death.

The typical American cook out consists of burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, and occasionally fruit salad or house salad.  I have never considered house salad a meal, and I definitely do not like potato or macaroni salad enough to gorge myself on.   This leaves me with the dilemma of either not attending, being hungry, or bringing my own food.  

I’ve always hesitated at bringing my own food.  To me, it  feels like I’m telling the host that I don’t like what they have to offer me.  I don’t want to dirty their kitchen by cooking or make extra dishes.  I don’t want to demand special treatment from anyone either.  After all, I’d be pretty irritated if someone came to my house and demanded I cook them a steak.  

However, today I was invited to a cookout and I finally found the answer to my situation; vegetable foil packets!!  I figured that my host wouldn’t have much that was veggie friendly, so I went to the store and bought some fresh veggies.  I cut up some yellow squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and onions and threw them on a piece of aluminum foil.  I squeezed some lime over it, put some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano on it.  Then, I wrapped up the foil and made a nifty foil packet.  

My family makes vegetable foil packs all the time when they grill their steaks and need veggies on the side, so I just made my personal sized.  When we went to our cook out today, I took my little foil packet, threw it on the grill next to the burgers and hot dogs and had a meal in just a few minutes.  While everyone else was hanging out with their burgers, I had my little foil pack.  I still had plenty of room for sides, so the host didn’t feel that I didn’t like their food, I didn’t make any mess because my foil was my pot and plate, and they didn’t feel bad about not having food for me.  It was perfect!

I’m going to another cook out on Monday and I have all my left over veggies ready and waiting. I’m super pumped I figured this out this early and not at the end of summer.

 And besides, it was so darn tasty!


Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.

So, Lance and I randomly adopted a cat today!

Well, kind of.

The veterinarian that I work with at school started a cat sanctuary to house all the survivors of the Tiger Ranch and to provide affordable vet care and housing for abused and forgotten cats.  Today, the sanctuary hosted an open house for all the supporters.  Naturally, me and Lance toted my mother and sister out to see the sanctuary and to help support the cause.  

I’ve been to the sanctuary several times to visit and help out, as well as taken my club there to help paint and clean out the basement.  The sanctuary is unique in so many ways.  The biggest way is that its just a huge house, and the cats roam about where ever they please.  They have their own cat door to go out to a fenced in gazebo and get fresh air, they have shelving to climb on, and they have tons of wonderful people who love them and take care of them.  It’s really a great place.

Recently, Lance and I have been thinking about what we want to do when we move out, which can be anywhere from a few months to a few years from now.  I’ve been itching to get a cat or a dog to add to our family, and as much as I’d love to go out and rescue a few pit bulls, I know that I really need to think smaller for now, as I can’t know exactly where I’ll be  in a few years, and I won’t be rehoming my pet due to some stupid breed regulation or not having enough space.  So, we decided we better think on the scale of a cat or a small dog, because its usually fairly easy to find housing that allows you to keep one of those.  

Regardless of what it was, we both fell in love with her.  So, today as we were sitting around the open house being bombed by kitty love, I found one of my favorite cats, Bonnie.  Bonnie is a simple, black, fluffy cat, but there has always been something about her that I’ve liked.  Maybe its the fact that she’s a survivor, or that she has to wear a lion cut all the time because she doesn’t groom enough.  Or it could be the fact that her tail has no muscle movement what so ever.  Who am I kidding?  I’m sure its the fact that she strolled right up, sat right in between me and Lance, and batted anyone that came near her.  She took turns sitting on both of our laps, as if she knew we’d get hurt feelings if she chose one over the other, and she just sat there forever, taking in all the pets and the scratches and the loving.  

So, of course we asked if she was adoptable, as some of the cats are not due to medical problems that flare up from time to time.  And we were in luck because she was!  

Obviously, I can’t keep a cat in my dorm room.   So, Bonnie has to wait until we move out to come home with us.  In reality, it’s not that big of a deal.  The sanctuary was prepared to take care of her until the day she died.  She’s a special member of their family, so they’re not at all in a hurry to get rid of her.  In fact, she might have even still been there when I moved out.  But, they told me they’d hold on to her for me and wait we’ve moved out and can take her with us 🙂  We can go visit anytime we want until then as well.   This also means that should we find a place that has a ‘allows pets that you already have, but you cannot bring in new pets’ rule, we technically can get the paperwork to say we already have her and she can come stay with us.  

I’m totally pumped.  I know, you’re all saying ‘a cat?  But you have BIRDS!!’  which is totally true.  Fortunately, Bonnie has a pretty laid back personality.  She’s a few years old, so she’s settled down and isn’t crazy like a kitten.  And, this won’t be the first time I’ve mixed cats with birds.  My family has always had cats (except for now.  Our 20 year old cat recently passed away a few months ago) and we’ve kept birds alongside them.  I won’t say its always easy; no multi-pet household is easy.  However, it is possible.  We’ve always just used the separation method with our guys; when no one is home, everyone stays separate.  We even have a screen door in the middle of my parents house from the days of separating cats and birds.  Due to the deadly nature of a cat bite on a bird, the birds never came out of their cage unless the cats were securely locked on the other side of the door, and when no one was home, the cats also stayed on the other side of the door.  When someone was home and the birds were in their cages, the cats could come downstairs, but any engagement towards the bird cages was highly discouraged.  After awhile, the cats eventually stopped even paying attention to the caged birds, and we were very careful to not have accidents.  We’ve mixed two cats, and two dogs (predators) with four birds and a rat (prey animals), so I’m hoping five birds and one cat will be ok.  Most bird people I know also have cats, so it much be pretty possible.

I’ve never been more motivated to move out.  I’ve always wanted to get into a place of my own, reunited with all my feathered kids, but there’s something about Lance and I making a decision together that really makes me see that there is a whole future for us, not just vet school.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up with everything that is happening now and how I want to get to vet school so badly and I need to get in that I forget that there is a future that will happen regardless of if I get an acceptance letter or not.  Its a really nice peace of mind.  So, I’m totally ready to start stockpiling cat toys in preparation for when we finally get to take her home!  Until then, I’ll make due with visits and lots of pictures!

The Lovely Cordyceps

Usually, I do not write about people.  To be honest, I don’t really like writing about people.  It gets you in trouble, everyone judges you, and I rarely like to write while in a bad mood.  However, sometimes in life you come across that one person that just makes you want to either run away and give up everything just to get away from them, or commit some act of violence that is generally frowned on in society.  

For me, this person is Cordyceps.  

Well, I guess that’s not actually her name.  But for all intensive purposes, that’s what I call her so no one actually knows how much I dislike her.  The name Cordyceps was actually coined by Lance.  Cordyceps is actually a genus of parasitical fungus that feasts on small insects or other fungi, which seemed like a pretty accurate likeness to the real Cordyceps to me.  Lance’s favorite type of Cordyceps invades an ant hill and turns the ants into zombies who later climb up a blade of grass, hang from their jaws, and allow a mushroom to sprout from their head.  

I have never in my life felt so much raw hatred towards anyone in my life other than Cordyceps.  I’d like to think that maybe it is her platinum blonde hair, her manicured nails, or the way she is constantly smacking her gum with an open mouth that drives me batty.  For the record, I do not like hating people.  I wish it was something superficial that I disliked about her so I could dismiss it and move on in my life.  However, to me, she partakes in the activity of utmost disgust for higher education participates.


I’ve seen dear Cordyceps cheating not only once, but twice on different exams.  And for someone who blows her brains out studying and works two jobs constantly, it makes it very difficult to like someone who takes exams with her notes at her feet and spends her weekends at the salon.  It also wouldn’t be so bad it she didn’t have aspirations to be a vet!  So, not only am I blowing my brains out studying, but my main competition has loaded the dice in her favor.  Beautiful.

Cordyceps is my ultimate torture.  She’s my raven knocking at the door, my heartbeat pounding under the floorboards and my cursed monkeys paw.  Every time I see her I feel my skin bristle and my heart rate pound.  And day by day I have to act civil and polite, and listen to her brag about how even though she loves her nail polish and make up and designer clothes, rest assured, she loves cutting up animals.  Not cute.

I bring up this rant because every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get the pleasure of having Cordyceps as a class mate in not one, but two classes.   Woopiee!!  

Due to my highly competitive nature, should Cordyceps get an acceptance letter and I do not, I will most likely either throw myself off of one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges, or hire a hit man.  After, of course, I go and watch her stick her hand up a horse’s ass with all those manicured nails.

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. 

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. 

The Major Snob Gets her Hand Smacked

I will admit it right now.  I am a huge major snob.  If you have no idea, a major snob is the typical college student who believes that their major is either better or harder than any other major on campus.  And I may be one of the biggest major snobs on the whole campus.  

Before you read further, if you are going to be highly offended by me talking about my major, believing being a science major is tougher than virtually any other major, or are going to go into a chronic rage about me belittling the work involved in other majors, do yourself a favor and go read a different post.  I’ve never said being a major snob is a good thing, but I also never claimed to be perfect.

So, I am a major snob.  I believe being a science major is rougher than most other majors.  Why?  The amount of time and effort I put into my homework and studying is unbelievable.  Most of my science classes are based off of four equally impossibly hard tests.  Getting extra points that might help bolster your grade is hard.  The tests are detailed and tricky, and it always seems like the material you are most uncomfortable with makes up the bulk of the exam.  Not to mention that science throws the distribution of credits per hour to the wind.  Science majors are forced to take labs, which are usually worth one credit.  However, that is one painful credit.  Lab’s usually last about 3 hrs, and writing the lab report and doing the equations afterwords usually takes even longer.  All for one lousy credit.  And I think my least favorite thing about being a science major is you never know when you are done with your work.

 For example, my education major friend often has to write a paper, come up with a project outline, and on some odd days make a puppet or something else creative like that.  I, however, have to study for an upcoming tests.  So, she writes her paper, makes her puppet, and draws up a project outline and she knows shes caught up.  However, how exactly do I measure when I am done studying?  Is it when I memorize everything on the page?  Is it when my head explodes from thinking?  Is it when I get done with a chapter?  And no matter what choice you make, you always feel guilty making it.  It’s always the wrong one.

So, the other day I posted an annoyed status about being a science major.  It sounded something like this: “I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a huge major snob.  If you’re not a science major, you’re weak”.  I’m not one to complain on facebook, but I had just gotten done pounding my head with cellular and molecular biology, redrawing diagrams, and learning all about how the effector acetylene cyclase forms cAMP from ATP, which then goes on to activate protein kinase A and so on and so forth.  I had a moment of weakness, I was bitter that other people were outside enjoying the nice day, and I posted a crabby status.  No big deal.  People complain on facebook all the time.

The response I got from that simple post was overwhelming.  People telling me to walk in their shoes.  People telling me I had no idea what it was like to take 18 credits and work a job.  People telling me their major is so misunderstood.

This would be a good point to verify that I work two jobs, take 18 credits, do undergraduate research, run and manage the AWC, shadow, and volunteer.  I feel the pain.  

Like typical Hannah, I didn’t back down.  I fought my case, refused to budge, ticked everyone off, and had someone defriend me in the process.  It was absolutely amazing to me.

I think the funniest part of the whole thing was that none of the people who are my friends now wrote or posted anything.  It was all people I went to high school with and haven’t talked to in three years.  I couldn’t believe that these people who had no clue what I go through on a daily basis, and who don’t really even know me or how I operate would have the nerve to attack me specifically to defend their majors.  It was incredible.  One girl even compared my comment to posting ‘Hail Hitler’ on my facebook.  When I posted it, I really didn’t think it was quite that serious.

Honestly, I have no problem with what career people decide to pick.  I mean, we need teachers, business people, journalists and writers, and what ever else in the world.  It takes all sorts to make a world.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t whine and complain about the amount of work I have to do in my own course study.

At least I learned there are three things to never discuss with people; politics, religion, and what major is best.

I’ve Officially Become a Bro

I will say straight up that I am not a normal girl.  I laugh at immature things, I hate drama, I can’t stand having to try and figure someone out, and I really like being able to get away with wearing jeans, a t-shirt, my hair in a ponytail, and no make up.  That being said, I have issues making friends with other females at times.

I also have a long term boyfriend.  Although you can be friends with single girls, if you’ve ever been in a long relationship and had single friends, I’m sure you’ve experienced the difficulties associated with it.  Its like as soon as you get serious about a guy, your entire friendship circle begins to change.  You can’t talk about all the hot single boys you want to try and impress, you don’t care about going to a club and getting phone numbers, and you start getting really, really annoyed that all the single girls whine that they will never find someone and having to reassure them that they are not ugly.  So, if your anything like me, you throw up your hands in defeat and spend the majority of your free time with your boyfriend, because its just that much simpler than either dealing with the SGS (single girl syndrome) or trying to find new friends who have boyfriends, who might dump them next week and join the single ladies club anyways. 

So, lately I’ve been hanging out with Lance pretty much twenty four seven.  And while I’m hanging out with him, we often hang out with some of his guy friends.

Oh. My. Goodness.  Guys are the easiest people in the world to get along with.   They’re laid back, they’re game for everything, and they don’t whine about how unattractive they are to the opposite sex.  Guys just usually go with it.  And because I have Lance, I’m totally off limits to all of them, so it makes being friends with them that much easier.  I’m just like another bro.  

I started to get a little concerned about my boyish ways and I asked Lance if I acted too much like a guy.  After all, I enjoy playing video games, making immature jokes, and eating pizza.  I was relieved, however, that he thought instead I was the perfect mix.  I could chill with his guy friends, which makes his life a whole lot easier, yet I could still rock a dress and heels.  Phew.  

My Tempting Ball of Blue Feathers

Today, me, Lance, and our friend Meg went to an exotic bird expo.  I had never been to an expo before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I packed a hundred bucks and promised my parents I wouldn’t come home with anymore fids and went on my way.  Little did I know what I was in for.

Birds! Birds! Birds!  Everywhere!  Birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Birds screaming, birds squawking, and birds singing.  Birds I’ve only seen in books, and birds I’ve seen in pet stores.  Birds were everywhere.  There were also bird products everywhere.  Food, treats, cleaners, perches, cages, toys, toys, and more toys.  I was extremely overwhelmed.   And best (or worst!) of all, everything was dirt cheap.  Huge, $30 bird toys for $9.  Java tree play stands for $50.  40 lb of food for $40.  And worst of all, the birds!  $15 parakeets, $75 cockatiels, and $200 breeding pairs of conures, mynahs, and parrotlets.

We walked around and played with some adorable baby catalina macaws, baby greys, and baby amazons.  They were all so adorable and cuddily it was hard to pass up the opportunity!  I love how cuddily baby birds are!  I wish they’d just stay that way forever haha.  

However, the worst temptation came in the form of blue fluff of feathers.  On table had a little blue parrotlet in a cage on his own and I stupidly asked why.  And of course, he was handicapped.  His feet were splayed in, much like Taylor’s.  The owner said that she bought the mother from someone who said she was only two, bred her, and the baby came out deformed.  She later found out that the mother was much older than she had been told and thinks that she didn’t have enough calcium to provide good formation of the legs of her chick.  Whatever the reason for his handicap, he was handicapped and I wanted him.  However, the thing  called parents stood in the way.

My parents aren’t the same type of animal lover as me.  Pretty much no one in my house sees things the way I do.  Animals for me aren’t just a piece in the puzzle of the American dream.  I don’t need my silky retriever to complete my white picket fence picture.  Animals for me are an entire lifestyle.  As pathetic as it sounds, they’re my reason for living.  They’re my family, my hobby, my favorite thing to spend money on, and hopefully someday my career.   And my most concentrated area of interest is birds, and my most concentrated area of birds is most definitely rescue and handicapped.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think I can rescue everything.  I know I can’t rescue everything.  But its not like I was trying to bring home a macaw or a cockatoo.  I just wanted a little parrotlet.  I wasn’t even bringing home another conure!  Just a parrotlet.  

Of course I was met with a resounding no.  My issue is that I live down at school the majority of the year and most of my pets live at home, so my family has to take care of them.   And because no one else can be of any use, my poor mom gets stuck taking care of all of them.  And all of their pets.  And all of the people.  And in some ways I can understand.  But at the same time, my heart was screaming to take the poor baby.  He would have fit in perfectly with my little flock of misfits.

Lance, of course, wanted it as well.  He made it even worse by throwing a full blown adult tantrum about how he’s at the point in his life that he should be able to buy pets, and he can’t.  I pointed out that his family refuses to take care of his animals while he is away at school and he should be happy to just have Jules.  He complained that while I have four birds, he only has one, so he should be allowed another.  I understand his dilemma at feeling helpless in the animal decision making corner, but his whining just made walking away from the blue fluff even more difficult.  And the depressed pouting that went on for the rest of the day was just a huge mood killer.  

Meg was also a really horrid influence, encouraging her motto of ‘buy now, beg for forgiveness later’ that has acquired her four guinea pigs, two birds, and a dog.  However, my father threatened that if I brought another bird into the house, he was going to let one of my others outside to fly away.  And being that I hadn’t clipped any of the recently, I didn’t want to tempt fate.  I don’t think he is really that mean that he would do that, but I also know he really hates Bella because she’s loud.  

If I was living at home, I totally wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  But, I feel bad leaving all my birds at home.  I know they don’t get the same care and attention that I give them just because they’re pretty much my whole existence, and they’re just the noisy birds to my family.  

Its kind of pathetic what a crazy bird lady I am already.  I should really get some new hobbies.  There’s just not much left since I got out of high school.  Believe it or not, there was a time when I had more to my life than feathers, homework, and boyfriend.  When I was in high school, I was in musicals all the time, I was in marching band, I was in community theater, and I had a horse.  I spent my school year in musicals and my summers at the barn.  However, after I graduated I had to sell my horse to go to college, I got too old to do community theater, and I no longer have the time or energy to participate in musical.  I lost essentially all my high school friends and because I never got involved in one activity that has a lot of the same people participating over and over again like musical did, I didn’t really form a group of really close friends.  I have friends, but few are as close as the group I ran with in high school and we’re all involved in different things so I don’t spend much time with them.  I’m in a lot of organizations, but most are more work that fun and offer little involvement during outside time.  So, out of all my hobbies and interests I had in high school, my rescue birds are the only thing that I enjoy that I have left.  

For $50 I could have given that little blue ball of feathers a good home for the rest of his life.  Although my mother informed me that there is such a thing as animal hoarding, I am far from being a hoarder.  All of my guys eat the best food, have more toys than they know what to do with, have large spacious cages, and are spoiled rotten.  In my spare time during the summer, I spend my hours baking birdie bread, making new toys out of dollar store items, trick training all my guys, and taking them outside on their leashes.  They all receive vet care and get plenty of attention and loving.  I take my birds to camp with me, take them out shopping with me, and spoil them rotten.  They’re my fids and I love knowing that they have a safe happy place to live when there are so many shoddy homes out there.  I like being able to save the birds that have been dealt the crappiest hand in life.  Even though you never know what you are going to run into with handicaps, I always say that even if they all drop dead tomorrow, I can rest easy knowing that I gave them a better life than they would have had anywhere else.

I hate being in the awkward stage between child and adult.  I’m expected to work and do school work, and manage all my time correctly, but I can’t make the decision to bring home a parrotlet.  I can vote, go die for my country, be held responsible for all my own bills, but I cannot rescue another bird.  Its quite frustrating.  And to top it all off, I really can’t change anything about my situation.  I can’t move out because I don’t make enough money, nor do I have a car.  I can’t save money because I have to pay for school.  I can’t stop paying for school because then I’ll be a hobo forever.  And really the only reason I’m going to school is so I can be around animal anyways!  Its such a frustrating circle.  I feel like I’m never going to be officially free.  

So, the moral of the story is, the people who look so ‘dumb’ and don’t go to college but run away after graduation, get married, and buy a house aren’t really that stupid.  Maybe they’re the smart ones, because at least they get to live.  

I’m sure at this point you’re quite tired of my rantings.  I’ll stop.  Thanks for getting to the end and not closing the page!  You’re a real trooper!

Food, My Adventure into Vegetarianism, and Boycotting

I am involved in pretty much every advocacy and awareness club Duquesne can offer me.  I essentially live in the Spiritan Campus Ministry Center where all the big issue clubs meet, am always researching what is going on in the world, and have a list of products and companies that I am boycotting that is a mile long. 

Recently, I read the book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” by Eric Schlosser, which just added to my list of things that I am no longer eating, including non free range meat.  For anyone who hasn’t read this book, I highly recommend it.  It really opened my eyes to some of the things that were going on that I didn’t even realize.  What was really eye-opening was the things that I said ‘DUH!’ after I read; so many things are hidden in plain sight and the American public just chooses to not see it.

There were three things that truly turned me off of meat; the working conditions for the worker, the conditions the animals are kept in, and the filth that inhabits the slaughter houses. 

I’m in Duquesne Students for Fair Trade, which promotes fair wages, no child labor, and safe working conditions for workers in developing countries.  However, I was totally blinded to the horrid conditions that speckled my own nation.  Most of the workers in slaughter houses are foreign, speak little or no English, unskilled, and are just trying to get by with whatever job the can.  They work for minimal wages, often times get jipped out of overtime, and are put in harm’s way daily.  Workers in slaughter houses are bribed with bonuses for failing to report injuries or not go to the doctor.  They are expected to work for hours on end along cramped assembly lines while wielding sharp knives, cutting meat into pieces and fat off meat.  Injuries become more common when the slaughter houses try to speed up the process even more, forcing their workers to throw caution to the wind and pump out meat faster.  Cuts from their own knives or workers near them are a common injury, but many workers also lose their fingers, get limbs caught in machinery, and develop muscle problems with their hands, wrists, and arms.  Workers are taught one menial task that they repeat time after time throughout the their shift so that replacement is fast, cheap, and easy.  For example, one particularly nasty job is the ‘sticker’ who stands and cuts the throat of a steer every few seconds.  As you can expect, these workers stand for 8 or more hours a day bathed in blood.  I never thought before I read this book why I never heard about injuries from slaughterhouses or lawsuits around slaughterhouses.  Guess I was just as blind as most of America.

I also do not agree with the way the animals are kept.  To preface this, I am not a member of PETA, I enjoy the taste of meat, and I feel that there is really nothing wrong with eating animals.  Unless you mistreat them.  Cows are often kept in crowded feed lots and fed grain.  To minimize the cost of grain, people often add bone meal to the feed, which consists of ground up cow, sheep, and pig carcasses (where mad cow disease originally came from, scrapie in sheep!).  Last I checked, cows were herbivores. . .They used to also add ground up dogs and cats from humane societies before there was a law enforced forbidding it.  Cows are often pumped full of steroids to allow for faster and larger growth.  The amount of food wasted on these cows is also amazing.  Another reading I read during one of my classes claims that the average grass-fed Indian cow produces more food than it consumes, but the average American cow consumes 6 times the amount of food it produces.  Thats a lot of loaves of bread.  Chickens have it even worse, and grow up in shoe box sized boxes stacked as high as the ceilings.  Tyson chickens are bred specifically to have extra-large breasts and tiny legs.  These birds cannot walk once fully grown.

The last thing that really put the nail in the coffin for me was the filthy way our meat is produced.  When meat is tested from slaughterhouses, they have found pieces of glass, pieces of metal, manure, human feces, saliva, and vomit.  Some of the dirtiest slaughter houses allow their workers to vomit or defecate on the floors of the slaughter-house.  Meat often falls off the assembly line and is picked up and put back on.  All this production is great for the spread of bacteria.  The outbreaks of E. Coli you hear about come from one place: feces.  And one contaminated piece of meat can really ruin it for the rest.  Hamburgers are by far the most disgusting things I read about though.  The average hamburger contains meat from anywhere between 10 and 100 cows.  Most hamburger meat also comes from worn out dairy cows who aren’t producing enough milk anymore.  Gross.

And that’s just the production of the meat before it even gets to a McDonald’s or Burger King.  The rest of the book was equally as disturbing and disgusting, but I didn’t eat fast food before, so it didn’t matter as much to me. 

As I said before, I still like meat.  However, from now on I will only be buying grass-fed, free range meat, or meat from a local farmer.  And if I can’t get any, then I will just eat my veggies.  I didn’t eat very much meat before, so it wasn’t really difficult.  However, I will admit it does make eating, shopping, and especially eating at restaurants a little bit tricky.  They don’t exactly state in their menus whether their meat was grass-fed or grain fed, and unless I was paying through the nose, I would assume they were lying anyway. 

All in all, I’m very glad I read the book.  I’m glad that I can make a more informed decision on my food and what I am supporting with my dollar, and I feel that I am not so blinded by what something appears as.

However, I will also be growing all my own food someday if at all possible, and am now suspicious of every food vendor!  Shopping has never been more difficult!