“Every death is a wakeup call to live more fully, more completely and more presently.” — Oprah
How ironic that I came across this quote today, the same day that I came across this on my patio (Julie A, stop reading now because here comes the icky part; Christy and all my tender-hearted animal-loving friends, I apologize in advance for the graphic nature of this post and the photos:
I consulted the Houston Audubon Society website and it appears to be American Crow. It’s smaller than a Grackle, which are very common around here, especially on the patios of Mexican restaurants where they beg for chips.
Payton and I came home from the gym but didn’t notice the crow on the ground. He went back into the garage to carry in the loot from Academy, and as he walked up to the back door I heard him say, “Ewwww, gross!” I asked what was gross and he said there’s a dead bird on the patio, and before I could get out there, Harry had the bird in his mouth (he is a retriever, after all).
I don’t think Harry killed the bird — he barks a good game, but when push came to shove, I think he’d be too squeamish. He prefers to do his hunting on the kitchen counters when he’s all alone, and no one can see him scarf down a loaf of bread. If Payton and I had happened upon a downed loaf of bread, I would convict Harry in a heartbeat.
Is this face of a bird killer? I think not.
True, Harry has little patience for birds and barks his fool head off at them. He especially gets rattled by the ones that perch on the peak of our roof. They pause there to rest a minute or sing a little song, and he goes bonkers. If we say “bird” to Harry, he’ll start barking, lifting his two front paws off the ground for emphasis. However, I don’t think he’s a cold-blooded killer.
I think that unfortunate crow hit one of the plate-glass windows that line the family room and overlook the backyard. This has happened once before, and the bird was stunned and knocked for a loop, but eventually recovered enough to fly away and hopefully live a long, happy, song-filled life. That time, I heard the thump of bird body colliding with glass. This time, I did not.
Nevertheless, I left the crow when he was for a while, hoping the fluttering of his tail feathers meant he was coming to and rallying. Alas, it was not to be. There would be no rally for that crow.
Sad, sad, sad.
And also troubling, because with 2 dogs in residence and others who visit regularly, that dead bird could easily become a mess of feathers and innards if left too long. It might also scare the tar out of Pedey the Weasel Dog, who is regularly frightened by his own shadow. If left too long in the intense Houston heat, it would start to stink to high heaven sooner rather than later. And, last but not least, I did not want Macy to see that dead bird. My little zookeeper has a heart as big as Texas, and her love of animals is legendary. In fact, she is at this moment at the Houston Humane Society’s Companion Camp, where she is no doubt loving on every animal in the building.
So how to dispose of the dead bird on my patio? It seemed somehow wrong and not befitting to just pick it up in a plastic bag and dump it in the trash. Wrong and smelly, too, since the trashmen don’t come for another couple of days. I can imagine that a dead bird inside a black trash barrel in the 90+ degree heat would be plenty nasty come trash day. I think the trashmen would have to take the whole barrel.
Anyone who has a dog knows what “The Scoop” is for, and those of you unfortunate souls who don’t have a dog can probably figure it out quite easily. Our Scoop gets plenty of use in our yard, and I’m kinda nutsy about cleaning it real carefully after each use, so I figured this was the best option.
He looks like he’s just sleeping in “The Scoop,” right?
The Houston Audubon Society says the American Crow is “highly intelligent” and leads a “complex life.” They hang together, forming large communities, and don’t breed until they are 4 or 5 years old. They have strong family ties and tend to stay together.
Great, I can now picture a crow family worried sick about their relative who hasn’t returned to the nest. They may be doing a fly-over right now, fanning out across the neighborhood searching for their lost guy.
Now I’m really glad I didn’t just dump him in the trash barrel. I carried him, in “The Scoop,” across the street and laid him in the shady grassy area next to the lake. It’s under a big tree, so maybe the search party will spot him, and their worry can morph into sorrow.
Or maybe the vultures will get to him before then. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and vultures gotta eat. Circle of life, I suppose, but it still makes me sad. I won’t go so far as to say that this crow’s death is a wake-up call that makes me want to live more fully, more completely, and more presently, as Oprah advises. No, I have cancer to thank for that. But having been through the “cancer journey” myself and having watched my sweet mama go through it, my heart is just a little more tender. Just a teensy bit broken. While joyful about survival and proud of having triumphed, going through such an immense experience produces little fissures, tiny cracks.
Yet, as Harold Duante-Bernardt so poetically pointed out, “We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places.”
So while I keep peeking out the front windows to the shady spot across the street, under the big tree by the lake, watching for a crow family in mourning or a gaggle of hungry vultures, I will resolve to grow stronger at the broken places.
Today’s my day.
It’s been pointed out to me that in addition to being my birthday, today is the official start of hurricane season. Coincidences are funny.
Birthdays were a big deal in my house when I was a kid. There was lots of celebration, and we always had homemade cake, decorated by my sweet Aunt Margie, my mom’s younger sister, who was diabetic but still made her Nanny Po a fancy cake every year. See, when I was a little kid, I couldn’t say my whole name: Nancy Katapodis. That was a mouthful for a little girl. The best I could manage was Nanny Po. Aunt Margie always called me that, even after I’d grown up. Dadgummit if pancreatic cancer didn’t strike her down 14 years ago. If she were here, she’d be making me the Barbie bowl cake right now, with lots and lots of frosting, and calling me Nanny Po.
I don’t mind one bit that I’m growing older. Not one little bit. I might have B.C. (Before Cancer) but not now. There’s something so very sweet about coming out on the other side of a hellacious battle against a vicious beast and its equally nasty side-kick. Breast cancer and mycobacterium stole a lot from me, but they will not steal my birthday joy. Pre-B.C., I might have fretted about being on the wrong side of 40, about the crow’s feet and the less-than-smooth skin. But not anymore.
I’m planning to savor every second of my birthday. Growing older means I’m alive. I’m here to celebrate another year. I’m thrilled to bits to be 42 today.
I really hope that this year is better than last.
Not to tempt fate, but it can hardly be worse.
Once cancer came to call, I realized that each birthday is much more than the day of one’s birth; it’s another year of victory. It’s another year of walking upright as opposed to being tethered to a hospital bed. Triumphant and upright yet still scarred, I learned first-hand the Chinese proverb:
“The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow like a thread.”
True, so true.
The utter suckiness of last year and the swiftly-appearing disease that is breast cancer, while totally sucky, taught me a lot. One of the big lessons, while completely corny, is to enjoy each day.
And today, on the day of my birth, I intend to do just that.
I don’t have a lot of baby pictures of myself. Those are still at my parents’ house; my mom kept a lot of pictures and a detailed baby book. Like everything else, she did the historical record-keeping of my life very well. In fact, I think most of my school pictures are hanging in the hallway at the old homestead.
I do have these pics, though, and will embarrass myself by sharing.
No idea whose parents owned the magical mystery bus that we decorated for cheer competition, but it was looking pretty festive. Oh, how I loved this particular cheer uniform. It was my favorite, and I hated to have to wear the other ones. I betcha it’s still in my parents’ attic. My mom never threw anything away. It may be moth-eaten and tattered, but I bet it’s still there.
I’m almost afraid to post any pics of my lovely self from college, because my bangs were so big they’d take up this whole screen. Go ahead and laugh. I’m right in the middle, surrounded by ’80s bangs.
After college, my first real job was editing Usborne children’s books that were written in England but sold in the U.S. My job was to “Americanize” the books, i.e., change “biscuit” to “cookie,” etc. To this day, I have a hard time deciding if the word “grey” is spelled with the “e” or an “a.” It looks more right to me as grey. Ditto “colour” vs “color.” It was a super fun job and when I had to leave, to move to Austin so Trevor could start grad school at the mighty University of Texas (HOOK ‘EM!!), my going-away party looked like this:
Randall White, the company president, and I cooked up a little show in which he pretended to insult me, and I shoved a piece of cake in his face. No one else was in on the joke, so it was a bit shocking. No wonder I have such a problem with authority, if Randall taught me these kinds of hi-jinks at my very first job.
Baby Payton got me out of the 9-to-5 lifestyle and into that of a full-time mommy. Keeping up with a hungry baby’s schedule and later chasing after a busy toddler made me wish I had an office to go to again, but only on some days.
Then I really wished I had an office to go to again!
Being responsible for the care & feeding — not to mention the character-molding — of two small kids was a big responsibility. Luckily, I had a great mentor. Just wish she’d have stuck around to help get me through my little darlings’ teenage years.
May not be all that important to them, but it’s my day, right?
Watching my boy pursue his true love (baseball) is pretty great. It reminds me a lot of my childhood, in which I spent a whole lot of time at the ball fields watching my brother and shagging fly balls. Sharing an unabashed love of the Red Sox with my boy is one of my life’s true joys.
The day Macy met Mo Willems stands out as one of the all-time best. He was so entertaining, and we love his books so much. When it was Macy’s turn to visit with him, she told him she likes to write, too. Instead of asking him some goofy question, she asked for his phone number. In parting, he told her be sure to not let Pigeon drive the bus. She replied: “As if!” I predict those two will collaborate one day.
Like my doggies. Maddy, sweet Maddy. My first dog as a grown-up. I saw her being born, and will never forget the shock of how easily the pups just slipped right out from their mama, the polar opposite of all the pushing, sweating & grunting I’d seen of births depicted on TV. Sweet Maddy entered the world easily and wormed her way into my heart. 6 pups were in her litter: 3 black, 2 blond, and 1 white. Everyone who came to look at those pups wanted the white one. But she was mine. I loved that dog all the way to the Moon and back. When she died just shy of her 15th birthday, my heart broke into a million little pieces.
She was the best dog, and a really good sport. I guarantee she didn’t want to wear bunny ears — she was much too smart & sophisticated for that — but because her girl asked it of her, she complied. Sweet old thing.
My dogs bring me a lot of happiness. A lot of dog hair, but happiness, too. Harry and Pedey make me smile every single day.
Later, of course, we learned it’s because he’s insane. They don’t always tell you that at the Humane Society.
As does spending time with my tennis girls. Oh, how I love that. If I weren’t planning to drink so much champagne today, I’d have to get out on the court. Going to tennis camp and playing nonstop for an entire weekend was one of the best things ever. I need a re-do! Come on, girls — get your racquets and let’s go.
It’s been a crazy year, for sure. When they say it’s all down hill after 40, they really mean it! Going from 40 to 41 brought more than the usual changes for me. But I’m on a roll now.
Being 41 and a fledgling cancer survivor taught me to strut my stuff, both at the Couture for the Cause and every day.
As I strut my way into 42, I’ll hold my head high and my glass even higher. This is indeed a year for celebration.