Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nothings Says “Happy Anniversary” Like a Basketball Jersey

My husband and I recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary. Like we do for many special occasions, we promised each other not to get the other person a gift. As the giver, we don’t like the obligation of having to come up with something simply to unwrap, especially when there is nothing in particular the other one really wants at that point in time. That is precisely why I was as giddy as could be that I broke our pact and came up with gifts befitting of the occasion.

I was listening to the song “Must Have Done Something Right” by Reliant K for the umpteenth time. The first line of the song is “We should get jerseys cause we make a good team.” In a stream of consciousness in hearing the words and thinking about our upcoming anniversary trip, I thought it would be a scream to actually get jerseys for “Team Zich”, consisting of Joel, the family Center, me, the group’s Small Forward, and Peanut, our pack’s Point Guard. PERFECT!

I contacted our local sportswear supplier and got a quote for printed basketball jerseys – two humans and a wee canine, please! I Googled “basketball jersey” to see some examples of various styles. I picked out the one I liked the best and emailed the example to the graphic artist at the store. We had a bit of a snag in interpretation of size and scale of lettering since an exact size was not provided to the artist, however we agreed upon a remedy and so I had my jerseys ready to go for our trip.

In the spirit of giving a gift you can’t buy, I planned to give Joel a summary of noteworthy events over the past 10 years as well as the top 10 songs that remind me of him. Joel is outstanding at keeping our photo albums current, so it was easy to flip through a decade’s worth of snapshots and jot down notes with dates. In addition to some other big-ticket life events that have occurred, I picked out what I thought would be perfect to highlight (and ultimately what I could print on a single sheet of paper) and added some cute clip art. In addition to just knowing songs off the top of my head that remind me of the mister, I also went through mixtapes and my iPod to decide upon on a top 10 song list. Back to the computer I went to neatly type up my list of song titles, explanations of why they reminded me of him, and added some cute clip art.

Because I don’t like surprises and I can barely contain myself in keeping one, Joel found out a week in advance of our trip that I was super-excited about having something up my sleeve. “You agreed – no gifts! Now I have to go out and find something…” he grumbled. Repeatedly tapping my temple, I replied, “You know where I went shopping? Right here. OFF THE SHELVES OF MY MIND!” Your move, teammate!

Team Zich

The gifts were a slam dunk (pun intended). Joel was genuinely surprised by my efforts and deeply touched by the sentiment. As difficult as it was to keep my schemes under wraps, it was definitely worth it. There was plenty of laughter and tears as we recanted our memories from the notes I’d created. This tribute of sorts to a decade as a team set the tone for what turned out to be a truly outstanding day.


Waxing Poetic Over Waxwings

There are an infinite number of delightful and remarkable things birds do that I get to observe up close while performing the otherwise routine tasks of feeding them and cleaning up around them at our local wildlife rehab center. On one such occasion in August, I had the extreme pleasure of witnessing some extra-special behaviors by some young cedar waxwings.

I had cycled back to the birds in net cages that were being fed solid foods every half hour. One particular net cage I moved on to contained all cedar waxwings. A chorus of soft hissy-whistles began as soon as I lifted the little cover over the cage, making my heart burst with joy for about the 20th time since I had started my shift. Several birds were already perched on a branch while a few others jockeyed for position to be first in line for fruit cocktail. I dipped the dull-tipped tweezers in to the little tray of fruit and began dispensing small beakfuls to each guest. After the first round of this, I noticed one bird had hopped away from the group, stood beside the dish of fruit, and was repeatedly bending forward and back, forward and back, forward only to the point of getting the tip of his beak in the fruit and then upright again. He was mimicking movements of getting food from the tray! It reminded me of those old drinking bird toys. He wasn’t there just yet as nothing was going down the hatch, but he was clearly putting two and two together. I’ve seen a number of young birds perched on top of their food dish nipping at bits of food but not like this, not these very first attempts at eating independently, especially since this group had been in an incubator for weeks and had been completely helpless. These are the moments that have me pinching myself to confirm that I’m really seeing what I’m seeing, because I find that getting to peek behind the curtains of what nature otherwise does not let us experience so up close and personal to be one of the greatest gifts of all.

During a feeding later that same day, I also observed one waxwing that I’m pretty sure was trying to cheat the system. They remained perched shoulder to shoulder on the branch as I tweezered out fruit one by one. Everyone had been sitting very nicely through the first two rounds and gaping appropriately during their turn, but as I finished working my way back down the line once more, the last bird in line fluttered to the end of the other side and wedged himself between the first two, essentially positioning himself to get extras more quickly. Of course I can’t be certain why he felt compelled at that moment to play musical perching, but to hazard a guess, it was an intentional move to get more food even faster. It wasn’t blatant aggression like most starlings I’ve fed that elbow their mates out of their way and wrangle to get each bite of food coming through the door but rather just a subtle bit of trickery which I found to be charmingly naughty.

According to my dog, I’m well known for rewarding naughty-but-impossibly-cute behavior, and so for his efforts, that smooth operator got a wink and an extra berry.

As a volunteer with our local wildlife center, I’ve been trained by staff to safely provide general care to birds and animals. Please call your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find injured or orphaned wildlife to ensure that the animal receives the appropriate care.

A Final Farewell to a Valued Customer

As I do most mornings, I had gone outside to the deck to hang up the bird feeder and remove our low-tech-but-effective coffee can contraptions used to thwart raccoon thievery from the suet cages. After opening the doors to what I’ve dubbed “The Seed n’ Feed” to our patrons, I turned to go back inside. As I did, I saw a little lump under the three-seater outdoor swing pushed up against the side of the house. It was a female house finch, one of our best customers. Immediately I knew that what I was looking at was not good, as birds generally do not stretch out for a rest like that, especially with the shopkeeper clomping around the store. It sure didn’t seem like she had hit the house siding or kitchen window, because she would have fallen straight down, not squarely under the glider. Even if she had hit the house and tried to crawl away with injury, she wouldn’t have been facing the house, which she was. Judging by the way she was positioned, I could only conclude that she was ill or she knew it was simply her time to go, and sought a safe place to peacefully leave.

Gingerly, I picked her up and studied her eyes, her chest, and her toes, to see if there were any signs of life but there was not. She still felt a bit warm, she must have recently passed. I decided that it would only be proper to bury her there at the deck, where she undoubtedly spent so much time.

I shoveled out a sheltered little spot under the deck by a large rock and a single toad lily plant. As I gently placed her inside, I thanked her for visiting us so many times, allowing us to enjoy the nature of her whimsy and curiosity and muse about what she was saying when she chirped and squeaked. I promised her that I would continue to make sure her babies were kept well fed and safe here. I patted the earth back down around her and said a final goodbye.

About a month later, I couldn’t help but notice how vibrant and robust the toad lily plant appeared. Despite no special care on our part, it seemed significantly taller and bushier, the stalks markedly greener and thicker.

I’d like to think this notable show of vitality is a gift from our finch, nourishing the plant and making it a lovely sight to see, her way giving back to us for helping nourish her.