Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Herding Cats

This is what you get when you pile all of your kinds into the truck, get to the Christmas tree place, and plead and beg them to just stand still and smile. All I wanted was that one photo of my kids--you know the one, where the edges are a little blurry, they're all smiling their best smile, and you are able to have a tangible precious memento that your kids could indeed get along and smile ... sigh.

And that's precisely what happened. Almost. Not really. Not even close.

We all piled into the truck heading towards the place where we bought our tree last year. (We've tried the potted live trees for years but were having a less than 30% survival rate in the yard, so we opted for the dead kind.) Joy and excitement were high: we all told stories of past trips for trees, past Christmases, past wishes... then we passed where the tree lot USED to be. That dampered our enthusiasm, but only a little. Surely, we all agreed, there will be another lot up the road. Further. A little further up the road... NOT!!

Eventually we found a lot with trees, 30 minutes of tortuous driving later. Seemed like days. Weeks. Almost a month. Because what becomes of a 5 person family when they're cooped up in a king cab Dodge Ram... and everyone's bubble is the size of a mansion... ok, maybe it was just my bubble... but still...

The lot had exactly 7 trees left, one of which I immediately saw was my dream tree. I pointed it out and gathered the kids together for a photo. I wanted one last year but the holiday spirit neglected to follow us to the tree lot and lots of elbows, name calling, and whining came with us instead, so a decent photo was out of the question. (I did get a rather nice shot of the tree lot people's golden retriever and a red tail hawk that circled above.)

I begged, I pleaded, and told Lillie no bunny ears several times and asked Niles for a nice smile, and Forrest, really....

Eventually, I got one. Just one. But that's all I needed, wanted, wished for.

Thanks Santa.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Daddy

I've begun and erased this entry a thousands times. Every time I've started, it's snaked along different paths of memories and the glossing over of years. Which, in the big picture, seems like an injustice. Frustrating but it's also allowed me to focus about what I want to write.

Daddy has cancer. Stage 4 metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. I was devastated when he first told me that he had Cancer. After all, he'd kept it all to himself until his initial diagnosis. He'd been in the hospital with pneumonia in May and a lymph node on his collar bone swelled. His doctor waited until he was well to see if it would go back to normal. When it didn't, she took a biopsy.

Now his days are filled with finding the energy to fight this evil that has invaded his body, without his permission. And it's brought into focus exactly how he wants the rest of his life to go, however long that may be. He has sold his goats, his cattle and his used car business. He's put all of his financials in order and has shown my sister and I where all of his important papers are. There is a good chance he will beat this but I think in the initial stages of any terminal illness, one tends to overreact.

In the last few months my mind has gone over and held on to 46 years of memories with my dad. I vacillate between smiles and tears. Smiles because we always seem to hold on to the happy memories in crisis situations, and tears because it's not fair when circumstances dictate that you do so.

Daddy's thick hair is gone and just a few stragglers remain. We've always joked about his hair--he takes such good care of it, making sure it's styled just so and if it gets mussed, it's quickly fixed. He's having a hard time with this. He knows it's part of the treatment and that it will return when he's finished with his treatments, but that's no consolation right now.

It's a hard adjustment to see my dad change through this disease. I find myself transitioning from an adult child to a (part time) caregiver (and full time worrier), something I never thought would happen.

Another phase of life. We'll do this together. With my dog, Sandy, too

Friday, December 04, 2009

HEY!!! What have YOU been doing?!!

Juvy squirrels never end with their surprised/unsure expressions when I photograph them. I love it. This guy and a few others are the last of the fall babies. Squirrels have two baby seasons--spring and fall. They will be released when the worst part of our winter is over--probably late February. Up to this age, they are friendly and inquisitive and see their caretakers as food sources. This size and beyond they begin acting like the wild animals that they are and practice chattering, fluffing and whipping their tails around, and yes, they will even bite. Cute as they are, they can cause some damage with those rodent teeth.

My pelican friend from the previous post was well enough to be transferred to another facility to be further rehabbed. The injuries he had, a broken wing and broken leg (probably from being hit by a boat on a local lake) were healed. We had done as much as we could for him and it was time for him to journey onward for further rehabbing. It was both and exciting and sad day--exciting because of the road trip, and sad that we were fare welling a unique and very handsome water bird.

Traci and I loaded up my van and headed south to Corpus Christi, to the Texas State Aquarium. They have an awesome water bird rehab program and Pel I. Can (a play on the Black Eyed Peas band member Will I. Am) was a prime candidate for what they had to offer.

After 3 hours in a really large crate, he was read to stretch his wings. We left him in the rehab room while his enclosure was being readied and we were taken on a 'behind the scenes' tour of the aquarium. I have to say, though I love the water and coast, it takes A LOT to house and take care of those animals. The employees make it look very easy. (I will post photos of the animals we saw another time.)

Here's Traci letting him out of his crate into his new enclosure. The really cool thing is the pool--it's about 6" shallow and goes to about 4' deep. Perfect for him to exercise his now healed broken leg.

He walked back and forth for several minutes, checking out the whole water set up. He's been dry-docked for almost 2 months and we knew he would really want a nice long bath. Until he was comfortable with the area, he walked around, intermittently checking the depth of the water with his bill. At one point he walked up beside Traci as if to ask if it was ok to go swimming.

He was given frozen fish to eat as he'd been denied breakfast to cut down on possible transport sickness. He eagerly walked up on the pan of fish but quickly rejected the fish as they were on ice and very cold. Traci began to toss the fish to him and he caught the first few but spit them out quickly as he realized how cold they were. (at the sanctuary, he was fed live fish, so the cold was a much different feeling for him.) Soon though he finally swallowed one and from then on feeding him was easy.

Traci took this fabulous action photo. I've never spent time with a pelican and smiled the entire time I spent with him.

He finally jumped into the water and the rest was history. He swam around the deep end, checked out the shallow end, and then bathed for a good 15 minutes.

Have you ever seen a pelican smile? You have now. (click on any photo for a larger version.)

So we said our good-byes knowing he was in the right place and that we had done a good thing bringing him to the coast. Plans are to get him water proofed and flighted and released a little ways from the aquarium where a permanent flock of American White Pelicans live. Thank you Debbie, Kelly, and Sarah for taking him under your collective wings.