Sunday, December 31, 2006

What else? New Year musings

Much as I'd love to write something profound or memorable today, this last day of 2006, I'm much too tired and spaced out right now to do much of anything beyond a quick post and a weaving walk into the bedroom, where I'll likely sleep for several hours.

It's been a social whirlwind (at least in my current definition of such things) around here since the start of the 2006 holiday season. I've baked up a storm (three batches of brownies, chocolate-chip cookie bars, chocolate-chip spice cookies, 'thumbprint' cookies with raspberry centers and two kind of gingerbread), cooked almost as much (yesterday's experiment was split pea soup) and spent lots of time with friends and family. I missed The Nutcracker because I was too sick to go out, but managed to see Susannah Mars' holiday show at Artists' Rep in Portland (a real winner!). Tonight will be a return to our traditional New Year's Eve - just the two of us, a lot of finger-foods, some good champagne, a movie and a time to say good-bye to some of the stuff we'd prefer not to see in the coming year.

Here are a few of the things I hope will disappear in 2007:

  • Neo-con control of our government
  • The war in Iraq (what the hell, how about war in general?)
  • Cancer. Too many of our friends died last year, or had brushes with cancer (including my beloved, who is, we hope, now past that particular threat)
  • 'Sectarian violence' -- of any kind, anywhere on earth
  • Stubborn ignorance, especially as it relates to our policies on global warming, or the lack thereof
I would so like to be like Anne Frank, who somehow managed to hold on to her optimism and belief in the essential good of her fellow man, and I think that will be at the top of my goals for 2007 -- to look forward, as much as possible, with optimism and hope.

Happy New Year to all. May 2007 bring light and abundance, health and hope.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Today is my birthday!

Now, I gotta say, when you hit the age of (gulp) fifty-nine, you don't actually celebrate getting a year older, but --- what the hell. Fifty-nine years ago, give or take about 12 hours, my parents were attending a Philadelphia Orchestra concert, and my mother went into labor (I wasn't due for another three weeks - looks like I started out impatient, and that hasn't changed one bit, as David will attest). Mom's obstetrician was in Atlantic City (a very different place in 1947, with nary a casino to be seen) so I was delivered by the intern on duty at the time. He was so nervous (and I was apparently so eager to get on with it) that I slipped out of his hands and fell - head-first - into the bucket awaiting the afterbirth, positionedon the floor next to the delivery table! I wish I could say that explained a bit about how I turned out, but I've learned that babies and small children manage to do a lot of tumbling and falling without major damage, so I can't use that event as an excuse, much as I'd like to!

For the next year, my uncle, who was an MD, and our family doctor, stopped by our house at the end of the day before he went home for dinner, 'just to take a look at your beautiful baby'. Both of my parents found that rather odd, but didn't know the reason until I was a year old (can you believe it? no one told my parents what had happened for an entire year after I was born! Today, that would mean Major Lawsuit, I'm sure).

In any case, head-bonking, the Years of Sex, Drugs, Rock-n-Roll, working at a nuclear power plant (really!), and Multiple Sclerosis notwithstanding, here I am, like an overweight Energizer Bunny, still going after fifty-nine years.

And the day dawned sunny and bright in Portland, a welcome gift for all of us!

(Cue the Beatles singing "Today is Your Birthday...")

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas greetings

I'm feeling a whole lot less sorry for myself this morning, thanks to Nyquil and two good night's sleep (as well as the blessed ability to go more than three minutes without sneezing!). The Paris Ring hasn't shown up yet, but it seems much less of a tragedy than it did when I posted the other day; after all, it's just a thing, right?

We spent Christmas Eve with my husband's family, at an informal get-together that included a Secret Santa (which we called a 'Yankee Swap' when I lived in New England). I gathered a few gifts I had bought over the past couple of years and stored away for just this occasion (a painted wooden rooster made by a Native American couple, a pot holder with a rooster on it - can you sense a theme here? - and a slightly obscene rubber-chicken keyring that lays an eggs, complete with yolk, when you squeeze it. Oh, and a pair of hugging salt-and-pepper shakers which were a slight variation from the major theme but fit in a secondary, kitchen-related, theme. Of sorts.) Gifts ranged from that to some of those sponges that morph when you wet them (I LOVE those sponges!), to two sets of 'cocktail' plates (because each has a drawing of a wine bottle or cocktail glass on it), to one of David's gorgeous cutting boards. David's mom, who turned 92 earlier this month, managed to find a ceramic bell in the shape of Santa Claus - who knew that she actually has a bell collection? She was THRILLED (and I would have taken it to Goodwill immediately).

Christmas dinner will be here today, with our dear friends Reva and Jerry, who moved to Portland shortly after we did, and our new friends Deb and Larry. I've unearthed my mom's good china (a gift in 1929, when she and my dad were married) and am ready to start the early prep (making the stuffing for the capon) as soon as I log off and get back to 'real life'.

I wish you all (assuming there are more than three people who read this Blog!) a very happy holiday, no matter what your celebration might be. Me?
I celebrate the returning light, beloved friends and family, and another day of life.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Lost (and not yet found)

When I was ten or eleven years old, my parents gave me a pinkie ring with my initials engraved on it. I was warned not to wear it 'just anywhere', but it was my very first piece of real jewelry, and it beckoned me like a Siren ("C'mon, open the drawer and put me on!") and I, never good at postponing gratification, did exactly that. And, at some point during that day, I lost the ring. I'd had it less than a month, and my mother was absolutely furious at me when I came home and confessed that I'd lost it. "I'll never buy you another piece of jewelry again," she shrieked. "You can't be trusted!"

Of course, she didn't make good on that threat, and they did buy me jewelry as I grew older, but most of it was stolen when my apartment was burglarized in Boston. When I called my parents to tell them about the burglary, her response was "It's your own fault, you know. You should have put it all in a safe deposit box!" (never mind that all of her jewelry, an impressive collection, was stored in the top drawer of her bureau). It was the last time I called my mother with a problem, and the end of expecting any kind of solace or comfort from her.

When David and I went to Paris in October, 2000, we were walking down a small street on the Left Bank, and I saw a gorgeous ring in the window of a tiny store. We went in so I could try it on, but it was too small. The saleswoman showed me another ring, a silver ring with a blue topaz, and I fell in love with it as soon as she pulled it out from under the counter. The exchange rate was in our favor, and the ring only cost the equivalent of $75! I've always thought of it as my "Paris ring".

A couple of weeks ago, I started wearing it all the time, not taking it off when I showered or slept; it reminded me of what will likely be my last trip to Paris, a city I love, and I liked having such a tangible reminder of a time when I could still stroll for five or six miles, without having to use a cane.

Somehow, I managed to lose the ring last night. It's in the house somewhere, I'm sure, but I have no idea where. When my hands get cold, my fingers shrink a little, and the ring obviously slipped off at some point during the evening. We've searched the trash cans and the bed, and all of the obvious places it might be, but so far, it hasn't turned up.

At one point last night, the memory of my very first ring flashed through my mind, and I heard my mother's voice admonishing me for having lost this ring, even though I'll be fifty-nine years old on Wednesday, and my mother has been dead for several years. That voice, that angry, negative, critical voice lives on in my head, despite years of counseling and a life filled with accomplishments and success. Why the hell can't I lose that voice, I ask you?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's rare these days for me to be up and around early enough to catch a sunrise (unlike my bad ol' working days, when I'd leave home in the dark and not return until long after sunset). But I got up early this morning to set out gifts for the guys who pick up our trash and recycling and to get the morning Oregonian. As I turned to walk back inside, I noticed that the sun was rising in the east, above the huge maple and oak trees in our neighbors' yards, and I decided I wanted to watch it a bit longer. So I came back inside, went out to the back deck (where there's a much better view) and stood out there, breathing in the cold, fresh air, and watched the sky change to a palette of rose and gold.

And I was really very glad to be alive.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Some more about winter

I feel a little wimpy complaining about winter weather in Portland, especially after having spent fifteen years living in and around Boston, MA, where winters are beyond intense. The year after we moved to Boston, we experienced the Blizzard of '78 (1978, that is; I'm old, but not THAT old). A nor'easter dropped 24 inches of snow on the city in 12 hours, and high winds took out a bunch of transformers near the harbor. We were without power for 36 hours. We lived in a basement apartment at the time, with no windows other than two, tiny windows at street level that were much too small to let in any light at all. But we had flashlights and candles, and Frank (who later became my second husband) fought his way to Boylston Street and snagged the very last transistor radio in the drugstore (which, we discovered when the lights came back on, looked just like a hand grenade) so we were able to stay on top of what was happening outside.

When we emerged from our dark cocoon, the snow drifts in the Back Bay were astounding, higher than anything I'd ever seen before. We walked to a local grocery store to get a few things (we lost everything in the refrigerator, of course) and saw a snowplow take out an MG that had been completely covered in snow - the CRUNCH of smooshed metal and breaking glass was awful to hear.

But, of course, we lived through the storm, and the week following, when all streets were closed to traffic, which meant having to walk about a mile and a half from the Red Line to our apartment to get to and from work every day. Eventually things got back to normal (and our next apartment was a 4th floor walk-up -- no more living underground, thankyouverymuch!

I thought about that winter as I was scraping the frost from my car windows early this morning, wanting to get to the supermarket before things got too crowded there. I do have a new, warm jacket (something I didn't need in the Bay Area) and gloves, so I wasn't at all cold, and there was only a thin layer of frost on the car windows, which was really easy to scrape off. So when I started that internal bitching session, complaining about having to take the time to clean off the car, I stopped myself and thought about the Blizzard of '78 -- and stopped internal complaining as well.

Yeah, it's cold here (25 degrees when I went outside) and yeah, it took five extra minutes to get the windows cleared off. BFD, as they say.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter returns to Portland

It's been a wild and woolly week in Portland, weather-wise. A wicked winter storm blew in (literally), bringing a ton of rain and hurricane-force winds with it. I've never been as happy that we have a new roof as I was on Thursday night, listening to the rain pelting down and hearing the roar and whine of the winds.

We lost power (about 20 minutes after I'd put a meatloaf in the oven, of course) for about three hours, but we were prepared for that. David hung his Coleman lantern from a hook in the living room ceiling, and I lit a few dozen candles around the house. We have flashlights in every room of the house (thanks to years living in earthquake country), so it was easy to find one to use if we had to visit the bathroom while the power was out. The lantern put out enough light that we could sit and read, which is pretty much what we did until the power came back on three hours after it went out.

When I checked outside the next morning, the only visible damage to the trees and bushes was a small limb in the driveway, down from the maple tree, and the poor, battered grape arbor on its side (it's been propped up - precariously - since it fell over due to the weight of all the grapes last fall) in the back yard. David did some more pruning on the maple, taking down several dead branches, and the grape arbor is once again upright.

Yesterday, the temperature dipped into the low 30's, and there's been frost on everything in the mornings. I'd much rather have cold, sunny weather than warm stormy weather, so I'm quite happy with the Return of Winter.

At least for now...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More fun with earplugs

So I've been excrutiatingly careful with ear plugs since Harley's initial debacle. I always put them away carefully, and am even paranoid about tossing used ear plugs into the trash can, lest she be tempted to root around in there and chow down.

Towards the end of January, Harley got really, really sick - so sick at one point, that I was terrified she would die. We took her to a vet that one of our neighbors had recommended, they did all kinds of tests (including two sets of x-rays), put her on an IV drip, and sent her home with three different medications, as well as an IV bag and needle so we could continue to hydrate her. Nothing helped. She kept on puking and getting more and more lethargic. The new vet (where we dropped over $1,000) was absolutely no help at all, and we ended up having her moved to another vet's office, a woman who had worked at the first vet's until it was acquired by some big corporate entity, which resulted in a push for profits and not for decent care. The new vet suggested a barium x-ray, and, in the process, discovered (yep, you guessed it) an ear plug wedged in the duodenum, making it impossible for Harley to do anything but puke because of the blockage. We approved immediate surgery, and Ms. Harley returned home the next afternoon, a little bit shaky but otherwise just fine.

How, you ask, did she find an ear plug to savor and ingest? All we can figure out is that one got loose as we were packing and moving from the rental house where we lived when we first moved to Portland into our home, giving Harley the opportunity to pounce on it and devour it. We figure the plug moved around in her digestive system for a few weeks (hence the symptoms, which came and went mysteriously) until it finally came to rest, as it were, in a place where it was causing her a great deal of pain and discomfort.

She may not be very bright, but she sure as hell knows what she wants and how to find it. Dammit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A little about MS

...after all, this is supposed to be a blog about my 'MS Journey", isn't it?

So I saw the neurologist yesterday, for my semi-annual check-up. He ran me through a bunch of simple tests (memory, muscle strength, etc.) and pronounced me 'steady as a rock'. Yeah, right.

The thing is, I guess I am 'steady' in that I haven't deteriorated in the past six month, which is, I know, a Good Thing. But dammit, I want to IMPROVE, even though I know that's beyond less-than-likely, and it's hard for me to get excited because I know what city and county I'm living in or that the thing with the shiny, metallic band and round, glass-covered thing in the middle on the doctor's wrist is called a 'watch'. Cut me a break. The last IQ test I took clocked me in somewhere in the 150's - of COURSE I know what a watch is! But ask me how many words I lose every day, or whether I can walk more than a block or two before my legs are too clumsy to be trusted. Or whether I can stay awake for longer that five hours before I have to collapse in bed and sleep the afternoon away. Or whether I can hike. Or run. Or work.

Of course I know why he was so bubbly and positive throughout the examination - I haven't gotten perceptibly worse in the past six months, and that really is a very good thing. If I could only figure out how to relinquish my dreams of getting back to what used to be 'normal' and settle into what is now 'normal' without the fear that I'll give up entirely if I do that.

He also mentioned that one of the the liver enzymes they track in my every-six-month blood tests came back elevated (not a surprise, since three of the meds I take can negatively impact liver function), so he told me I now have to get monthly blood tests and (JUST BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS!) give up alcohol entirely. It's not like I drink all that much, either. I don't drink any hard liquor, haven't for years and years. But I do like a glass of wine with dinner, and several glasses if we're at a restaurant or hanging out with friends. But for now, and until my blood tests show a reduction in that enzyme, even my one glass of wine a day is verboten.

Yeah, I know. I could be in Fallujah, or Darfur instead of in beautiful Portland, OR. I have nothing to complain about, not when you look at the way the vast majority of human beings live on this planet of ours. But for today, just for now, I'm really bummed that I can't toast the holidays with anything stronger than a Diet Pepsi.

Poor pitiful me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Harley's Biggest Bungles - Chapter One (The Great Ear Plug Disasters)

Harley, Queen of the Bungle

So Harley just LOVES the taste of ear wax. I shudder as I type those words, but I'm being honest here.

We discovered this perverse bent of hers when she was about a year old. We were living in a little house at the top of the ridge in Kensington, CA at the time of this Great Discovery. See, the only way I can sleep in the same room (much less the same bed) with David is if I wear those squishy ear plugs - otherwise, his snoring wakes me up and I end up sleeping on the couch or in the guest bedroom. (An aside: I used to work for a company that manufactured one brand of those squishy ear plugs, and at one time I had dozens and dozens of 'em, given to me by the Human Resources director when I was visiting the office in Indianapolis.)

Anyway, back to Harley's story.

I would put the ear plugs on the little bookcase next to my bed when I woke in the morning (yeah, I re-used them; I couldn't afford to use 'em once and throw them away now that I had to pay for them!), and I'd notice, every once in a while, that one would disappear during the day. I assumed that the cats had knocked one off the shelf and used it as a tiny soccer ball, and figured I'd find it when I vacuumed under the bed, so I promptly forgot about it.

Until a sunny morning when I was home from work, sitting at the dining table and drinking a mug of Peet's coffee, when I noticed that Harley had just puked. When I knelt down to clean up the mess, I saw a disgusting-looking, brown lump in the middle of it all, which I found the courage to pick up and examine. After a minute or two, I realized it was -- an ear plug, no longer bright yellow, but still recognizable. Blecchh!

Over the next few hours, Harley relieved herself of eight more ear plugs in various spots around the house. "What the F***??!!", I thought. "How many of these has she eaten?! Did she eat them one at a time, or did she save them for a huge feast? AARRGGHH!"

The next evening, I realized that Harley was sick. She wasn't eating or drinking and she was extremely lethargic. I managed to convince David that we needed to get her to a vet (of course, the only vet's office open at night was the Emergency Vet Clinic on University Ave. in Berkeley, where they charged the proverbial arm-and-leg for their services) NOW!! They put her on an IV drip because she was badly dehydrated, and did X-rays - X-rays that showed THREE MORE EAR PLUGS (two in her stomach and one in her intestines) for a total of one dozen ear plugs she'd ingested that never passed through her digestive system.

$800 later (and one stolen truck, but that's another story), Harley returned home, free of ear plugs. From that point on, I stored my ear plugs in a little wooden box on the night table next to the bed, and Harley returned to eating kibble.

Until Ear Plug Disaster Number Two, of course...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Harley, Queen of the Bungle

Here's Harley, in her favorite spot on the living room sofa. Note the checkerboard face.

Two cats share our home at the moment. I wrote a little about Sam the other day; here's a glimpse into Harley.

We found both cats at the Berkeley/East Bay Humane shelter, a righteous, no-kill animal shelter in west Berkeley. We'd waited to get them until Zack arrived for the summer, so all three of them would have several months to bond and get to know each other. David zero'd in on Sam, who was in a cage with several of his siblings, obviously just bursting with desire to be petted and cuddled. In stark contrast, Harley was in a cage by herself, lying in that Kliban Cat meatloaf pose, with her back towards the rest of the room. "That's my cat!", I thought, and I was right. After a brief drama that involved getting our landlord's permission to adopt the two cats, and a last-minute sprint back to the shelter before it closed for the weekend, both kitties arrived in our home.

A few months later, when we were back at the shelter for a check-up, we mentioned something about Harley's less-than-effusive personality. "Yeah", the vet's assistant replied, "torties have attitude!"

Eleven years later, I still think about that description, which is absolutely right-on. Harley has attitude!

We named her "Harley" for two reasons. She has almost-perfect checkerboard markings on her face (kind of like a harlequin) and, when she was a tiny kitten, she purred so loud, she sounded like a Harley-Davidson revving up to take off down the freeway. She still produces one helluva purr when she's feeling happy.

Harley has the softest coat of any cat I've ever petted (and that's a LOT of cats!). Touching her is such a lovely experience, especially when she's relaxed and allows the contact to continue after a moment or two. A lot of the time, as soon as you start to pet her, she'll move around and start licking your hand as if to say "Hey! I get to control this process, not you! Get it?". She'll let you pet her, but on her terms, not yours!

This morning, I woke to find her nestled up against my hip, sound asleep. For about five minutes, I lay there stroking her soft fur and scratching under her chin, until she came to consciousness enough to turn around and lick my fingers, re-establishing supremacy in the process.

Harley is beautiful, haughty, and not very bright. And I love her to pieces.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cat rituals

David and Sam, engaged in The Ritual

If you're a cat lover, and have lived with cats at any time in your life, you know what I'm talking about, 'cause cats LOVE rituals. Okay, so I'm anthropomorphizing just a teensy bit here, but I get to do that 'cause this is my blog, right?

Take Sam, our big, sweet black-panther-of-a-cat.

When I'm finally awake, teeth brushed, meds and vitamins taken, coffee set to brew, Sam somehow knows that it's time for his Morning Ritual. I stoop down and pick him up (no mean feat, since he's a big and very solid cat). He puts his big ol' paws on my shoulder, rubs up against my face, and starts PURRING. He's very clear on exactly where I should concentrate my scratching, and will crane his neck in the appropriate direction, giving me all the information I need to give him exactly what he wants. From time to time, he'll turn and look at me, and give me a few swipes of his tongue on and around my lips, and then go back to the real business of the moment - getting lots of scratches and scritches and strokes. At some point, one or the other of us will tire of the position, and we'll disengage.

If for some reason I don't respond to his morning yowling immediately, he will follow me around the house until I do what he wants. And once the Morning Ritual has been completed, he's off to lie on the little bookcase that sits in the middle of the bay window looking over the back yard, intent on watching the comings and goings of the birds and squirrels (and perhaps reminiscing about his days as a valiant Back Yard Hunter?).

We just completed The Morning Ritual, this time while I was sitting in my chair at the desk. I'm pretty sure he'll be in his bird-watching spot when I go out to the sunroom to exercise, but he'll barely acknowledge my presence at that point. The Ritual will have quieted his need for contact, at least for a while.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I've never really had artistic talent.

My son is a very talented comic artist. He started drawing when he was three years old. Whenever we went out, we took a bunch of markers and crayons and paper with us, so Zack could draw while we waited for our food at a restaurant, or visited friends who didn't have kids of their own. He drew everywhere, on paper place mats, all over his notebooks - everywhere. His passion for drawing is matched by his talent, and he's on his way to a career in comic art.

Yep, the guy has talent.

My husband is another very talented guy. His first career was painting houses - not just any houses, but upscale homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of his work has been featured in "Fine Homebuilding" magazine, and you can still see some of the work he did on several of the Victorian mansions in San Francisco. He does incredible stuff with color, and the walls of our home in Portland, as well as our home in California, are proof of his creativity and talent.

A couple of years ago, he got into woodworking, after building a bench in memory of his father. A year or so ago, he made me special box for storing bills, with lovely, dovetail joints (made of wood left over from an old sofa!). His skills keep improving with every project he takes on.

A few days ago, I suggested that he make a new cutting board for the kitchen (the kind that slides in between the counter and a drawer) because the existing one was looking really ragged. My thought was that he'd measure the board, cut a piece of rock maple or oak, and make a simple replacement.

No way. That's not how really talented people do stuff. Instead, he made the gorgeous board pictured above, a mix of rock maple, oak, walnut and padauk (an African wood that's almost red in color). It's a shame to hide the cutting board under the counter, but that's where it will live.

The man definitely has Talent. Lots and lots of talent.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Two-Cat Night

Kitties sleeping in warmer climes

(Not unlike a three-dog night, I s'pose.)

It's been pretty cold in Portland for the past week or so (lows in the low 30's) and both cats end up snuggled in bed with us. This isn't new behavior for Harley, who spends 99.9% of her time sleeping (the rest is spent eating), but Sam usually chooses to hang out somewhere else in the house rather than bunk in with the three of us. Not lately, though, when the combined warmth of two humans and another furred creature is too tempting, even for an independent guy like Sam.

So I wake now, wedged between two hefty cats, which makes hauling myself out of bed a wee bit difficult (it's hard enough to get my legs moving after a night of MS-enduced muscle spasms and pain), but figuring out how to wriggle them out without disturbing the cats makes it damned near impossible.

Yeah, I know - why not disturb the cats? Because, as the pillow someone gave us as a gift recently says "Dogs have owners, cats have staff."

And that's the truth. We live to serve - to empty litter boxes and fill water dishes, to scratch ears and bellies - and to try never to disturb their rest.

Much as I love having their soft, furry bodies snuggled up with me when I sleep, I'd sure like it a lot more if they'd MOVE when I wake up!

Friday, December 01, 2006


The black sunflower seed, squirrel-proof feeders, with a few finches stopping for a quick snack.

Our bird feeders (there are three in the back yard at the moment, plus a hummingbird feeder) have turned the space into a kind of mini-zoo. And I, who used to hate birds, find myself fascinated and
entranced by the endless variety of our feathered visitors. Sam, the larger of our two cats, now on permanent house-arrest after too many visits to the vet, spends much of his day stretched out atop a small book shelf, watching the birds as they swoop by (I assume he wants to lunge through the window and grab a couple of them, but I've learned that trying to read minds, whether human or feline, is an exercise in futility).

Last spring, we bought a squirrel-proof bird feeder that closes off when the squirrel's weight pulls on it (this after watching most of the black sunflower seeds disappear into the squirrels' bellies for a month or so), and we added a second a couple of weeks ago. The feeders empty every three or four days, so we're now buying the largest bags of black sunflower and thistle seeds we can find, in an attempt to keep up with the birds' winter appetites. If someone had told me, even fifteen years ago, that I'd want to entice birds to visit my home, I would've laughed 'til I couldn't breathe. But, as is so often true in my life, that particular 'never' (as in "I'll NEVER like birds!") has proven to be incorrect, and I love seeing a new species perched on one of the railings on the back deck, so I can grab one of the half dozen bird books stored on a shelf under Sam's perch, and try to figure out what new variety of bird has discovered the Rancho Dleepow Lunch Stand and Bird Sanctuary. This morning, we saw a northern flicker out there, along with the usual house/purple finches, chickadees, and junkos. The Annas hummingbirds are sticking around, and will, I hope, continue to visit all winter. We get an occasional visit from a pair of raucous jays, who chase the smaller birds away while they peck at the seeds that have fallen onto the flower beds, but they don't linger long, and the others return fairly quickly.

My dislike of birds can be traced to my childhood, living in a big city, where the predominant bird population was pigeons (or, as I call them, 'flying rats'). Pigeons were EVERYWHERE in the city, as was pigeon poop. Flocks of pigeons would swoop down to grab at a fallen bit of hot dog bun some careless pedestrian dropped on the sidewalk, making it both difficult and unpleasant to navigate past that spot. I won't bother to go into graphic detail about pigeon droppings, other than to say "BLECCHH!". It wasn't until I got sick and stopped working that I began to see the beauty and variety of the bird life in our back yard in California, and I've been given the opportunity to see (and appreciate) an even wider range of bird species since we moved into our new home in Portland.

So, I'm now (gasp) a bit of a bird watcher myself. Who knew?