Category Archives: Life

2018 Review

I don’t normally do year-end reviews, even in my personal journal, but this year warrants it, I think. 2018 was the typical even-numbered year, which in my world means “not all that great.” It’s weird, but looking back on my life, odd-numbered years have always been better.

This year started with a herniated disk with severe nerve impingement, a carry-over from the end of 2017. Ye gods, what a world-rocker that was. It’s still not 100% right, and is a little wonky right now from all the resting for the pneumonia. The doctor gave me prednisone for the pneumonia, which I am a little hesitant to take because it puts me in Hulk-smash mode, but maybe a happy side effect will be to turn the back down a notch.

Next, my little buddy, Inigo the Nanday, was diagnosed with a testicular tumor in February. It’s so big in his little body that his veterinarian asked me if I was sure of Inigo’s sex because it looks like an egg on the X-ray. But I had Inigo DNA sexed when I got him. At the time of the diagnosis, his vet gave a prognosis of a few months to a year, which would get us to February. Last August, the vet added up to another 6 months beyond that, which would take us to next August.

If you know me, you know how devastating this news was. But I’ve also made it a point not to “pre-grieve” him. Nandays usually live to about 25 years, and he’s 17, so we’re getting robbed of time, but it would be tragic beyond his shortened life-span to spend the time I do have with him thinking about the time I won’t have with him. Instead, I’ve focused on cherishing every moment with him and ensuring that he is as comfortable as possible until he decides it’s his time. I firmly believe he will let me know if and when he needs help on his final flight.

In the meantime, he gets a shot of Lupron every 4 weeks or so to turn off his hormones, and for pain control he gets meloxicam (an anti-inflammatory) and gabapentin.  The tumor presses on a nerve in his hip a lot like a slipped disk gives humans sciatica, and he cannot unfurl his right foot on flat surfaces. When he’s on the couch he walks on his balled fist, what vets call “knuckling,” but when he’s on his rope perch or hanging out on the top of his open door he can grip well. He can still climb with his foot, and hold snacks with it, too.

At night he sleeps in a special birdie box. He has a shelf in his house that I cover with several layers of towels, and he rests there during the day sometimes as his legs are malformed to begin with, but with the box there is no chance of him falling and injuring himself at night. Here he is, offended by the price.


Like anyone with a tumor or cancer, or any chronic or terminal illness, he has good days and bad days. I’ve noticed that he’s a lot happier and more active when it’s warm, so my heating bill is a bit outrageous and I’ve been wearing shorts indoors for much of the winter. But if it keeps him this active, curious, and silly, it’s a small price to pay.



If you notice the caption below the video, let me add that the bird community on Instagram is AMAZING. His followers have been so supportive, and there is no way I could cope with his illness without them. Some of them have been through the same illness with their birds and their words of wisdom have been a comfort. Others have been with us from the day I created the account, and they have been right there with words of encouragement and love. He has followers in nearly every state, and on every continent except Antarctica. I lost count of the number of countries, but it’s a lot, maybe 20 or so. We follow those birdies whose accounts are not private, plus other pets of the furry variety. That’s the silver lining in all of this, the spirit of friendship from the community.

Next, I changed jobs a few months ago. The new job is challenging and enables me to do a lot more with my skills than I had been, and the pay enables me to live a fuller life than I had been. I do miss my former coworkers though. The old gig had some great people, and I like to think I made some friends there. I’ve seen them a few times since, and will see them again soon.  No job is perfect, and the camaraderie we shared made the tough times more bearable.

And now I’m closing out the year with pneumonia.

All in all, 2018 was a mostly stressful year, one that taught me how to make tough decisions and dedicate myself to seeing trying situations through to the end. That will continue into the first half of 2019, as next year will most certainly bring loss and a tremendous amount of sorrow—I got Inigo in 2002, when he was six months old, and he has been my constant companion through thick and thin—but the most valuable thing I learned in 2018 is to live in the present. I have travel plans for 2019 and much to look forward to later in the year, but I stop short of saying “I can’t wait for that” because, knowing what will come first, I can. Today is its own gift, and I will make the most of it.

My favorite picture of Inigo.

Merry Ouchmas

Thought I’d just Google a prompt today. (Yes, it’s still today. I haven’t gone to bed yet from December 18th. Katster’s rule.)  I landed on WriteShop’s 50 Christmas Memories Journal Prompts and found a good one: Have you ever had a Christmas mishap?

I didn’t, but my father did. Every year my father would make a Christmas tree stand from scratch. He didn’t trust the ones you could buy, and with good reason as we had an old,  WWII-era electric train set with metal cars, metal tracks, and a control that worked some years and didn’t work others. “God forbid the tree falls over while one of you is playing with the trains. You’ll be fricassee.”

Instead, he would saw a few small planks of wood, stand the tree in a coffee can so we could water it (Chock Full o’ Nuts!), put the coffee can and tree on a board, recruit either my mother or one of his four progeny to hold the tree upright, and then nail the planks to both tree and board. Then he’d stand back, look at the tree, see it was listing to one side, say “oh,” hammer some more, stand back, look at the tree, see it was listing to the other side, say “cripes,” hammer some more, stand back look at the tree, see it was leaning forward, say “damn it,” and then finally pound the ever-loving daylights out of it.

“There! That tree isn’t going anywhere!”

“Never mind,” my mother would say. “Just make sure you didn’t nail it to the floor.”

It really was a Christmas miracle that he never did, come to think of it.

But anyway, Christmas 1987 was a bit of a doozy. I had gotten all four of my wisdom teeth out the week before and looked like Mike Tyson had popped me a good one. It hurt like blazes too, because the Percodan made me hallucinate and I wouldn’t take it, and I spent nearly two weeks walking around holding an ice pack to my face.

So there I was, sitting on the living room couch Christmas Eve morning reading a magazine and numbing my jaw while my father got to work on the tree stand in his art studio. Every time he’d saw a plank, he’d drop it on the floor.

saw saw saw saw klunk

saw saw saw saw klop

saw saw saw saw klunk

saw saw…

“Uh oh.”

I stopped reading. My father saying “uh oh” was never a good thing. It usually meant he had just hurt himself somehow. Sure enough, a moment later he stepped out into the living room holding his left hand wrapped in cloth in front of him.

“Go get your mother.” Blood was starting to seep through the cloth.

But she had heard, and was already in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.

“What happened?”

“DON’T LOOK,” my father barked. This was because my mother was known to pass out at the sight of blood. She was so squeamish that she went temporarily blind when my eldest sister got shot just under the eye with a BB gun. (SEE? It happens!) My mother saw spots so thick she had to feel the hands on the kitchen clock to tell what time it was before she called the doctor.

“Oh, God.”

“MOM, turn around!”

“Is it his hands again?”

Again. For an artist, my father was murder on his hands. He was always injuring them—slamming them in car doors, getting them caught in drawers, closing windows on them, and whacking them with hammers.

“Yup,” he said. “I sawed my hand.”

“You WHAT?” This, from both my mother and me.

“I think I need a stitch. And a tetanus shot.”

“Oh, God,” my mother said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll drive,” he said.

“How are you going to drive like—oh God,” my mother said. She had looked. She had seen  blood.

“And how are you going to drive when you’re getting ready to pass out?” he said. “If I can drive a Jeep with a bent axle in a war, I can drive to the hospital. Cripes!”

And so my father drove to the hospital one-handed.

Turns out he somehow managed to puncture his hand clear on through with the tip of a compass saw, one of those small skinny ones with a pointy tip. It went into his palm and came out the other side, through the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and forefinger.

The best part is that we still put up the tree that night, my father having declared that he’d have been damned if we didn’t. Then he and I got to hang out and take it easy when everyone came over the next day. Oh, they mocked us, all right, and they commiserated with my mother on running an infirmary. But when everyone else started doing dishes and we retired to the living room, he high-fived me.

With his good hand.