It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Bird!

Because it wasn’t raining Sunday morning, as it had been for 40 days and 40 nights in the Chicago-area, I sat outside by the pool with my dogs, a cup of coffee, and my laptop. I consider that to be a perfect way to start my day.

As I read e mails and blogs I heard a flapping noise right over my head and then a flopping noise coming from the pool. A bird had crash-landed in our pool and had obviously not been given swimming lessons as a gelding, or whatever you call a baby bird.

I grabbed the first thing I could find, which was a very small skimming net with a short handle, and ran over to try to coax the bird out of the water. I knelt down and sort of offered the net to the bird, which seemed like a stupid and hopeless thing to do. I knew I could never get close enough to save this bird, but it had other plans. It flopped on over to me and hopped right onto the little net.

It stayed on the net as I brought it over to the garden to dry out. It didn’t fly away and seemed perfectly happy and untraumatized. I can’t say the same for me.

Protecting his identity

Protecting his identity

It finally dawned on me that this was not your garden variety wild bird. Slowly I realized that what I was looking at was a pet-store-type bird; it even had a little band around its leg.

It was happy just hanging out in the garden, and then suddenly took off and flew right into one of our sliding glass doors. Fearing the worst, I went to assess the damage. The bird was totally fine and unfazed. I extended my finger and it climbed onto it. It was beautiful. I began to lactate.

It flew into a nearby bush at which time I realized:

1. I was home alone with no one to help me.

2. I have two dogs.

3. They slept outside through the entire search and rescue.

4.  I should take the dogs inside just in case they noticed the bird and wondered if it tasted like chicken.

5. I was still in my jammies.

6. I could feel the presence of our resident Cooper’s Hawk and, because I am a bird whisperer, knew I had better get the bird to a secure, undisclosed location before it became an amuse-bouche.

7. I don’t know nothin bout raisin no birds.

It turned its little head onto its little back and went to sleep on one of the little branches of the little bush. I took that opportunity to calmly lead the dogs inside, find a basket, get the mesh dome we usually use to keep flies out of the humus when we’re outside snacking, and a plastic cup of water.

Making sure the dogs didn’t follow me outside I walked over to check the bush, praying the bird was still there. It was still snoozing away. When it awoke I offered it a stick — hoping it would hop aboard, which it did — and placed it into the basket. I gently tossed in a few handfuls of grass and sticks and then poured water from the cup into the basket. The bird came up to the cup and drank the water as I was pouring it.

After it finished drinking, I placed the cup of water into the basket and then topped it off with the mesh dome. Knowing the bird was safe, I stayed with it while calling neighbors to see if anyone was minus a bird.

No one was. I called one of the local pet stores to see if they would take it in, but they wouldn’t. My friend Roberta told me to “tweet” on Twitter and post on Facebook about it to see if I’d get any nibbles. Not even a peep.

My friend, and bird enthusiast, Art came over to help. He immediately identified the bird as a male parakeet. I asked him to walk over to our neighbor’s house where an estate sale was in progress. Perhaps the bird had escaped in the midst of all the commotion taking place at their house.

But it wasn’t their bird or anyone else’s.

I called my mother who said, “Have you considered just asking the bird what its name is”? She is so smart, but the bird was not. It didn’t appear to know its name.

Finally Joanne, one of my neighbors, called to tell me she would take the bird for her 15-year-old daughter if no one claimed it, but she couldn’t get it until the next day. She said she had a cage but needed to find it in her attic, and wanted to get the appropriate parakeet accoutrements so it would be happy in its new home. I breathed a sigh of relief; the bird relieved itself in the cup of water.

As soon as Richard came home I asked him to watch the bird, even though it was safe in the MacGyver-style cage I had fashioned. I went to the pet store to buy parakeet food and, of course, a parakeet toy.

That bird ate like a …much bigger bird. It stuck its head into the bowl of food and didn’t come up for air for ten minutes.

I had plans with Rosa, who happens to be Art’s wife, that afternoon. She and Art offered me one of their bird cages to use until Joanne could locate her cage. The bird loved the cage because he had the freedom to fly around, eat, drink, and crap. Isn’t that what we all want?

The bird rested comfortably in the cage in my office that night. Meanwhile, the dogs still had no idea there was a bird living in the house.

Joanne, her husband, and their daughter came over last night to pick up the bird. I have never seen anyone as happy as their daughter was. As soon as she walked into the house, before she even saw the bird, her smile was so big I could see each and every one of her teeth. I should probably tell Joanne that from what I saw she should have her daughter’s wisdom teeth looked at.

Later that night Joanne called to tell me they had named the bird “Zed” and that everyone was doing well. I was exhausted. I had spent most of the day sitting in a pile of dirt babysitting a parakeet while in my jammies. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

The Ritz of Shvitz: Part I

I never thought I’d want to be a member of a high-end fitness club. I felt perfectly comfortable exercising at the local recreation center. But Richard decided he wanted to start working out and, due to his desire for all things boiled and sanitized, would only join what I had judged by its cover to be The Ritz of all health clubs.

We went to meet with the club’s Concierge a few weeks ago. We were given the grand tour of the amenities which ended with a waft through the dimly-lit health spa. The smell of eucalyptus, mint, and lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon made me feel like a cartoon character whose feet drag along the ground while she’s lured by a visible wisp of smoke in the shape of a finger, beckoning her to follow it. I was impressed. I didn’t want to be.

Due to various variables, we received a sizable discount and, because my membership to the recreation center had recently expired, I decided to humor Richard and The Concierge by agreeing to join. I was happy Richard had found a club he felt was clean enough for him to sweat in, but I was sure I was going to hate it.

Richard set up a fitness evaluation for the very next day at 6:00 AM, as well as several sessions with a trainer, which was included with our membership. I was (and still am) recovering from a tennis-induced hammy injury and told The Concierge I would set up my evaluation when I was cleared to do so by my physical therapist. I really didn’t want to like this place, but I didn’t feel intimidated or overly unfit after the tour.

Until The Concierge guided us to The Shop where a slightly plump, perspiring, middle-aged woman wearing a sports bra and yoga pants gave us complimentary t-shirts. She then told us that we were entitled to 20% off everything in the store except Kiehl’s body potions, and lululemon clothing. I didn’t hear the last part so I asked her to repeat what she said. “I said the 20% off doesn’t apply to our selection of lululemon clothing, but you won’t be able to wear it anyway.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, thinking she might perhaps take that moment to explain what she really meant by her comment. Instead, she made it worse.

“You won’t fit in it. It won’t look good on you.”

Richard began to escort me out of The Shop by my wenus (It’s a real word. See? He could see that the eucalyptus, mint, lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon induced coma was wearing off and and wanted to spare me –- no, he wanted to spare himself — the inevitable tears (mine) that usually follow a nosedive of a situation such as this one — but my chin didn’t even quiver once.

Before any of us could say another word, he thanked her and yanked me out the door.

I got into the car and began grumbling about the “moist, ugly whale who said I was fat”. “She never said you were fat”, Richard sighed, “besides, you just lost 20 pounds!”

“She doesn’t know that,” I snapped.

“I knew you were going to take it wrong,” he said.

“Wrong? What did she say that was right?”

“She was referring to ‘the girls’ because you had just told her that you wanted the large complimentary t-shirt instead of the medium one she first gave you because you said ‘the girls’ wouldn’t fit in a t-shirt that small. She was saying your boobs won’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

I knew that. I did. But, I wanted to hear the lavishly nice things people who work at health clubs always say to new recruits even when they don’t mean them; not the equivalent of “you’re fat”.

I could tell that I was raining on Richard’s enthusiasm parade about joining The Ritz, so I decided to shut my big, fat mouth.

When we got home I went outside and sat in the backyard with the dogs. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew Richard was probably right. That smelly woman was most likely referring to ”the girls”. I tried to move past it but couldn’t. So I called her.

“Hi, this is Leslie. I just left The Shop and was wondering what you meant when you said I wouldn’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

“Well”, she began, “first of all, I only carry up to a size 8.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t!

My chin began to quiver uncontrollably, as if holding back tears earlier only made the dam that much more ready to burst. I managed a quick “good-bye” and hung up the phone.

And even though I really and truly wanted to, I still couldn’t let it go. So I e mailed The Concierge and told her about the exchanges I’d had with Shamu at The Shop.

The Concierge e mailed me back immediately saying that the person in The Shop is very outgoing and says lots of stuff that she doesn’t realize is hurtful, and she was so sorry, and I’m a beautiful woman with a beautiful body, and she felt self-conscious when she first joined the gym a year ago before she became The Concierge and how intimidating it was…

The Concierge was a size zero, if even. She had beautiful, honey-toned skin, long, luxurious brunette hair and was dressed in clothes that, even though they looked like they had been painted on, looked pretty darn good on her. The pumps she was wearing sealed her impersonation of “Health Spa Barbie”, if there is one. I doubt she’s ever had a moment of self-consciousness. Perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she has worked so hard that in the past year she has successfully come down from a size two.