Category Archives: small business

Smile & Wave…

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Smile & Wave…

When things get bad I either retreat inward like a turtle hiding in their own shell or bleed all over the floor, on a stage with spotlights and a large audience. It seems I’m not great at middle ground. I use to compare parenting to jumping off a cliff with no knowledge of what you’ll be landing on – could be a pillows, could be razor blades, no one knows. Right now I feel like I am threading a needle in the dark with shaky hands, it’s not a great place to be in.

Most of the monsters I am fighting are not my own. This adds to the frustration and the fear, the unknown is a formidable beast. Throw in vastly different opinions regarding medicine & parenting and you have yourself an unsavory cocktail of emotions and no real path for progress. I’m in a bit of limbo right now, a shitty version of purgatory, not sure which direction we’ll be going in next.

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Anyhow, moving on….I haven’t posted in a while so here’s an update for the curious –

Two weeks ago I got cleared off restrictions from my ACDF surgery. That means I can go back to the gym (YAY!!!!). This made me obscenely happy. Exercise is my primary means of maintaining mental health. Not exercising to the level that I am accustomed was tough during my recovery. I understood the need, I just missed the endorphins and the familiar faces at the gym.

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Speaking of familiar faces…I saw one lady at the grocery store last week and she asked where I’d been. I gave her an update and we chatted pleasantly, told her I’d see her back at the gym. Fast forward to Saturday and the gym parking lot was a hot mess. I had to wait for an open spot because the lot was completely full. I had my blinker on waiting for a car to vacate….then a women rolls up next to me and starts screaming.

Her face was distorted with rage, she was using hand gestures and possibly frothing at the mouth. I responded with a few friendly shrugs, pointing to the spot I was waiting for and a what-can-you-do look on my face. Who was this angry woman….the same lady I chatted with at the grocery store. A few days later I was in the gym parking lot again and she walked past my car – we made eye contact, I smiled and waved enthusiastically, she looked down at the ground and walked to her car. Namaste parking lot lady.

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I went back to work with Rob and Laura after the holidays. For the first couple of weeks I just went out on solo missions to do their shopping. I would also cook them meals and run errands as needed. One day Laura forgot I wasn’t cleared to drive them yet. When I arrived in the morning she had her coat on, ready to go. When I reminded her of the temporary grounding, I got some side eye and a huffy “Fiddlesticks!”

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Fortunately I can drive my friends again.

Fed Up!

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Fed Up!

Everyone is in full on crazy mode right now. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, weather has been a complete mess for a large swath of the population and I still need to figure what to get my Brother In-law.  Since my surgery last month I have become pretty good at saying – “nope, not doing it” and Christmas is no exception.

I have gotten gifts for my kids, the hubs and my nieces and nephew…I’m just not stretching much beyond that this year. I may attempt to make biscotti, maybe not. I tried to bake something last week and it made me awful to be around. I go into a weird rage when I attempt to bake, it isn’t pretty.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the pressure, a local mom posted this picture in a Facebook Group –

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Sure, it’s all fun and games until little Timmy goes to school and starts discussing how Snowball landed on his dinner plate and it takes a few beats for his first grade teacher to realize that mom has probably been hitting the eggnog a little too hard this year. Or perhaps the offspring of this stressed out parent is observant and wonders why Snowball’s right leg is longer than his left (inquisitive little monster). Then dad has to come up with some convincing backstory on the fly about a sledding accident in 2004. I tend not to lie simply because it’s too exhausting.

It’s not just the holidays making me nuts, it’s the recovery from my ACDF. The other night I went to a women’s networking holiday party. It was great to get out and feel human again. Bonus I ate a meal that I didn’t shop for, cook, serve or clean up – that is always a plus. I got a bit panicked when it was time to leave because a snow squall had come through and I was afraid of slipping on ice and snow. My friend graciously walked me to my car as I held on to her arm (just in case). Then I had a white-knuckle ride home on black ice. I am usually excellent about driving in the snow – since the surgery I’m afraid of getting into a fender bender or skidding off the road. I’m sure this will calm down as I get further into recovery but right now I’m feeling fragile and it effects me in ways that never have before. I don’t like this new version of chicken-shit me, not one bit.

I went back to a modified work schedule a couple of weeks ago. The modifications mean I do not drive Rob and Laura around anymore, not for the foreseeable future. Instead I visit them at home, run solo errands and do some cooking for them. This has been working out except one day last week when Laura forgot I wasn’t driving them anymore. You haven’t lived until a 93 year old woman is pissed off because you won’t take her to the laundromat. Luckily a driver was coming the next day to tackle that task.

One of the new chores is to assist Rob with the spraying of the fruitcakes. I didn’t know this was a thing until about a month ago. Rob made 22 fruitcake loaves and one wreath back in November. Since then, he sprays the bounty every Wednesday. The loaves each get 5 sprays of brandy and then they are sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in an airtight container. The wreath gets about a dozen sprays. I’m fairly certain the wreath is an alcoholic, it’s a broken mess. I didn’t get the specifics but I did see the results and I explained what a smash cake is to my friends. We have deemed the boozy treat a smash wreath and that should totally be a thing.

This week was special because it was time to remove the cheesecloth. Pieces of liquored up fruit were falling off like a drunken avalanche. Rob (a non-drinker) was scooping up the bits like a kid who just busted up a Pinata. I’ve never seen a 95 year old move with such cat like reflexes. After a few fistfuls his aim was off on the spraying and the right side of my body smelled like a bar at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve. Luckily I made it home without getting pulled over. I may need to change my sobriety date.

On the plus side, I still have my sense of humor and luckily I’m not the only one….this gem popped up on Facebook the other day. I like this an unreasonable amount. Happy-whatever-you-celebrate! 80406706_1768755406589367_978716565929197568_n.jpg

 

Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

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Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

If you are a regular reader of the blog (all six of you), you may recall that I named my inner critic Ethel. I’m pretty sure we all have an inner critic, that asshole in your head that makes you second guess your life choices. Sure sometimes they make a valid point, for instance, meth is always a bad idea. Other times it’s less obvious like beating yourself up over that new bold haircut (psst…they rarely go well) or that second slice of chocolate cake.

I visualize my inner critic as an elderly prairie dog named Ethel. Ethel has bifocal glasses that lean so far down her snout they are in danger of falling off her face. She wears hand crocheted sweater vests in terrible color combinations like orange and fuchsia with a splash of brown. Her right hand is on her right hip in that universal condescending stance. Her nose is scrunched in judgement and as a means to keep those glasses from sliding off her sour face. Oh and she’s fat but we don’t discuss that because fat shaming is wrong. She wears sensible brown shoes (to match the vest) and she has a broken pen behind her left ear. That pen hasn’t worked since 1992. Anyway, this post is about a different Ethel, but wasn’t that a fun distraction.

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A nude shot of Ethel. You have to imagine the ugly sweater vest, bifocals, brown orthopedic shoes and broken pen.

Last night I stayed with an almost 92 year old lady named Ethel who prefers to be called Jane (keep UP). Her son in-law recently passed away and the family was at his wake. Ethel, I mean Jane, is one of those fun feisty nonagenarians. I didn’t have to do much except bring her food and follow her cues as to how social she wanted to be.

She’s fiercely independent and very lucid with the occasional lapse of judgement. At one point she wanted to ask her daughter about how the Thanksgiving turkey was cooked…not a great idea to call during a wake. I tried to distract her but her will won out and then she felt bad. I assured her it was fine, that the phone was likely on silent and I got the answer via text. In case you’re wondering, the bird was cooked for 14 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt wrong to ask for more details than that.

Jane gets a glass of wine promptly at 7pm, Chianti if you’re curious. After the vino my new friend started spilling family secrets. It’s amazing how much one glass of Chianti can yield, perhaps governments need to change their tactics when dealing with hostile prisoners. We’d probably get further along than we do with water boarding…but that’s an entirely different kind of post.

I will keep the family secrets in the vault but I can share one amusing tale. Jane was in Ireland on vacation with her daughter in-law (Debbie) and a friend (Ann). They were on their way to Trinity College in Dublin to see The Book of Kells exhibition.

For those that don’t know (including myself until 5 minutes ago) The Book of Kells was created around the year 800 and contains the four gospels. The emphasis of the book is on the 340 folios made from calfskin vellum. The book is primarily visual as much of the text is either truncated or erroneously repetitive. So it’s basically a fancy biblical picture book y’all! Here’s a link in case you find yourself in Dublin – The Book of Kells

On this particular trip, Jane discovered a deep dark secret about her friend Ann. Ann was (in the CIA – that’s Catholic Irish American, not the other CIA) a closet smoker. Jane caught her smoking a few times and pretended not to notice (much like I pretend not to see people I know at the grocery store).

Years earlier her other travel companion, Debbie, lost an arm to cancer. She had a prosthetic arm but it was too heavy so she usually went without it. The three of them were walking in a spread out single file line on their way to the exhibition. Debbie, the youngest, was far ahead. My new friend Jane was in the middle and Ann, the closet smoker with undiagnosed emphysema, was the caboose.

Jane: Ann if you don’t slow down….so help me God I will rip off your good arm and beat you over the head with it! Miss smokes-a-lot can’t keep up!!!

True story.

 

 

Blue Bird

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Blue Bird

I think I have a team of angels around me. Many are the clients I have met since starting my business a handful of years ago. The business is set up as a concierge, more times than not, I work with elderly clients. I’m usually brought in by the adult children who worry about their parents safety or want to improve their quality of life. I never know what I’m walking into until the situation reveals itself. Before I can blink I’m attached to my new friends.

Many of my clients are sick and/or elderly and we typically part ways when they die or move to a nursing home. That’s the hard part. I saw a blue bird this morning and was reminded of a dear client.

Clara, she comes as a blue bird per my request. I didn’t want a cardinal because well, that’s been overplayed. Clara was the mother of an acquaintance of mine. The business was fairly new when she reached out several years ago and asked me to meet her parents. We have since become close friends.

I felt an instant pull toward Clara and honestly I would have visited her for free. If she turned down my services, I would have wept. She had a soul that pulsated love and good energy. I’ve only met a few people like her in my life and I was desperate to be around her. She and her husband lived on a small farm and she was pretty sick when I started. Within a week I suggested that she transition to hospice to be as comfortable as possible.

It was an interesting work environment. I did a lot of laundry and light house keeping which is typical. I also washed outdoor furniture and helped prep for meals and social events. I made my first quiche ever for Clara because she was hosting a breakfast. I’ve since made many and they are super easy and quite impressive. Clara had a way of getting you to do things slightly outside of your comfort zone and then you felt a little bit of pride for the successful stretch.

One of the most memorable days was helping Clara shower before she transitioned to Hospice and got a Home Health Aide. It’s not something I typically do but she was uncomfortable and I would have done just about anything for her. She lost what was left of her hair in that shower. It upset her husband, she was relieved.

Clara moved to America from China as a teenager. From what I can remember she taught herself English over a single summer. She and her husband met at a private prestigious high school. She went on to become a nurse and eventually worked at that school. She was intelligent, kind and just being in her presence made you a better person. She had a life rich with experiences, family, profound friendships, service, world travel and she hosted many delicious meals. Thank you blue bird for the visit this morning.

Oh Fiddle!

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Oh Fiddle!

It’s been a while since I posted about Rob & Laura, they’re doing fine. They’ve had lots of visits with their children. One daughter asked me to check on a cut that Rob mysteriously acquired last week. She really wants Rob to put a bandage on it. When I mentioned this to Rob he informed me that it had a bandage on it already, it’s called a scab. Alright then.

Last week Laura was a bit miffed about the laundromat. She muttered about getting there late and how bad it is if you don’t get there early. I took the bait and showed up 20 minutes earlier today to see if that would alleviate the problem. She was pleased that I was early then in her exuberance she forgot to bring the laundry detergent. That set us back a bit and I got concerned when I heard her say “oh fiddle” from the back seat. “Oh fiddle” is the 92 year old version of Code Red, I acted with extreme caution. If I heard “Fudge!” I would have considered turning around and calling it a day.

While Laura was doing laundry, Rob and I went to the grocery store. We only needed two things and I asked Rob if he wanted to use a cart or his cane, he went with the cane. As we were crossing the parking lot I stated “And they’re off!” in my most announcer like voice. Rob didn’t miss a beat and added “Like a herd of turtles!”

Upon entering the store we heard, “cleanup in produce”. We both chuckled at that because it happens 100% of the time and we go twice a week. Then we looked for Marty, the useless grocery store robot. As we were making our way toward the check out, Marty approached, it got a little weird. At one point Marty got stuck between an older man in a wheel chair and me. George was on my right, Marty on my left and the wheelchair guy was left of Marty.

I could tell Marty was confused as he went back and forth in incremental choppy movements because he didn’t have a clear path out. I was hoping the circumstances would cause Marty extreme frustration resulting in fried wires, a mechanical meltdown of some sort.  For a moment I imagined the encounter would render him incapable of fulfilling his duties (which seem to be limited to aggravating customers with a precision focus on geriatric clients), no such luck.

On the way out Rob commented that the cart with four wheels was easier to navigate than his cane. I remarked that he has a walker which also has 4 wheels and that got me some side eye. I replied with “oh fiddle”.

Miracle…..Whaaaat?

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Miracle…..Whaaaat?

Some days I take my work home with me, not unusual most people do this on some level. I had an outing with Rob and Laura yesterday. We did our usual running around with a few add on stops to Miracle Ear and the Butcher. Only old people and Italians go to the butcher on a regular basis. As is the case wherever we go, my clients are greeted by name and with genuine smiles.

Miracle Ear was different because the appointment was for Laura. This is only the second time I’ve taken her to any type of medical appointment. Rob has an entire team of specialists that have him on their rotation – MD, Cardiologist, Podiatrist, Urologist and blood draws on the regular. I’ve taken him to the hospital for a chest x-ray and last minute doctor visits at least half a dozen times in as many months. Rob is 95, Laura is 92 so there isn’t a huge age difference. From my observation Laura is just a bit more stubborn and perhaps more resilient. I suspect if her arm fell off she’d scoop it up and be prepared to slug me with it if I suggested getting it checked out. She’s definitely the tougher of the two.

I almost felt bad for the technician at Miracle Ear, he was trying so hard to be endearing, telling us about his family weekend. After about 10 minutes and far too many details about his cousin’s two year old’s birthday party at Knoebels (details included the parking lot layout and traffic patterns) he got around to asking Laura how her hearing was doing.

Tech: Well Laura, how is your hearing?

Laura: Whaaaaat?

Tech: Your hearing can you hear me?

Laura (aggravated): Yes, and now it’s my turn. I’m returning this (tosses a hearing aid on the desk), I don’t want it!

Tech: This is a hearing aid for your left ear. Model IDK2017

Laura: Yes, I don’t want it. It gave me an infection. You keep it!

Tech (sensing the hostility, made a wise choice): Alright then.

The rest of the errands went on without much drama until we got back to their house. Halfway up the walkway to the front door, Rob’s legs quit working. He was reduced to incremental strides which could be measured in centimeters instead of inches. Rob is over six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds. I’m 5′ 4″ and weigh significantly less (that’s as close to my weight as you’ll get from me), it took a Herculean effort to get him over the threshold. Once we got into the house, Laura appeared with a walker to replace his cane. That helped and we were able to get him into his favorite chair.

Once Rob was seated, I got him some water and fetched him lunch. I stayed an additional forty minutes to observe him, it was quite a scare. As soon as I left I texted his children to let them know what happened and suggested that someone check on him later that night. I also called a few hours later to check in and he bragged to me about making it to the bathroom without his cane (I may have gasped).

And this is the hardest part of my job….I become attached to these people and I know our time is limited. I realize we all have limited time, it just seems more pronounced when you are dealing with people in their 90’s. I worry about them. I worry what will happen if one dies before the other which is, statistically likely to happen. I ponder which one would be better able to live without the other. They will be married 69 years in August. I wonder how much time we will have together before it all changes, their vulnerability is palpable.

 

HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!!

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HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Rob and Laura, my spunky nonagenarian clients. Last week Rob turned 95 and I gave him these socks –

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The birthday card I selected had two Shih Tzus on the cover (featured photo). The inside read – If it were anyone else’s birthday I wouldn’t give two Shih Tzu. I had a twinge of concern that this card might be too racy but I gambled and won. I stopped by the afternoon of Rob’s birthday to drop off his gift and say hello in person. One of his daughters was there with her husband, they all approved. The socks were such a hit that Rob decided to wear them to his birthday dinner, truly an honor.

Last week I asked Rob if he only wore the white diabetic socks that I see him in. He confided that on Sundays he wears brown socks to attend meeting. Meeting is the Quaker version of a worship service. It is a quiet gathering unless a member has a desire to share something. I’ll be honest I don’t know much about it, they seem like a very chill group.

If you watch the show Catastrophe, the main character, Rob (coincidence?), becomes a Quaker for about 3 minutes and the portrayal seems fairly accurate to me. Rob & Laura have mentioned the firm wooden pews at meeting and how they are likely designed to discourage people from getting too long winded. They noted that all of the meetings they have attended feature firm uncomfortable seating except for England where they had fancy upholstered chairs. By the way Catastrophe is an excellent show if you’re in the market for viewing something with razor edge humor which embraces the messier aspects of modern parenting and couple-hood.

Happy Birthday Rob – 95 looks great on you!

 

Johnnie Walker Red

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Johnnie Walker Red

There was a mouse in the house and no Johnnie Walker Red. I may need to back up a bit for this to make sense. Today featured an outing with Rob and Laura, my nonagenarian clients. We hit the usual spots including the grocery store where we were supposed to get three things and left with six.

The official list included bread, milk and peanut butter. The unofficial additions added frozen peas, cheddar cheese and white wine. The dairy aisle is approximately 2,789 miles from the packaged goods area (wine & beer). During our trek from one end of the store to the other, we passed a gentlemen wearing this shirt –

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We decided that was a sign from the Universe. Since I thought the Universe might be listening I quickly asked for world peace and anyone but Trump in 2020

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Laura waited by the register while Rob and I went to fetch her wine. When we were checking out the cashier was interacting with Rob and I, Laura always provides the laugh track.

Cashier: OK, almost done you just need to respond to the questions….(jokes) your mother’s maiden name, blood type, name of your first kid.

Rob: OK, Wilbur (that is NOT the name of his oldest child)

Me: The name of the street you lived on when you were five.

Cashier: The fake name of your first dog.

Me: My first pet had an unusual name. When I was seven we had a cat named Johnnie Walker Red. Mom always told us it was because that was the box the cat picked out but I had my suspicions…

We all chuckled and went on our way. Rob interacts with everyone and we had a conversation about Marty, the useless robot that is usually summoned to produce when we frequent the store. Then we speculated about what Marty did on his/her/their time off.

Me: Rob, I didn’t hear an announcement for Marty to clean up in Produce today.

Rob: Me either, I wonder if Marty has the day off.

Me: What do you think Marty does on his day off? Perhaps the beach, a museum visit, the movies…

Rob: I don’t know maybe Marty likes to hang out around garbage, always cleaning something up. I see you have assigned a male gender to Marty. I think of Marty as female because there was a cute girl named Marty in one of my classes…

Laura: Clears throat.

After a few more errands we went back to the house. I went into the basement to get birdseed so I could fill the feeders. They use large old pretzel tins as bird seed containers. The tops are difficult to get off and I struggle with them. I noticed that one of the tins was running low so I lugged the large container toward the old refrigerator which is now dedicated to housing excess bird seed.

As I was getting ready to pour seed into the tin something caught my eye. At first I thought it was just a clump of gray seeds, perhaps black oil sunflower seeds, shifting.  When the gray “seeds” moved, I knew it was a mouse of some sort.

I quickly came up with a plan for capture which, involved a scoop funnel (with the funnel end closed) and a coffee tin. Several attempts were made with me jumping in unison with my new furry friend in a staccato rhythm. My plan was catch and release to the great outdoors. Perhaps I should have explained this to the mouse before attempting the catch end of it. The mouse managed to escape to corners of the 60 year old unfinished basement that I was not willing to attempt. Mouse: 1 Me: 0

I thought about suggesting that they get a cat and then I realized I would likely get stuck changing the litter box so I kept that idea to myself. I told my mouse tale to Rob and Laura when I got upstairs. They found it amusing and were not alarmed in any way. Rob explained that they worked out a deal with the rodents. They are welcome to stay as long as they confine their activities to the basement. His house, his rules. I filled the bird feeders and wished them a good afternoon.

 

Friend of the Family

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Friend of the Family

The other day I was assisting clients at the grocery store. We are a slow moving parade when we navigate the aisles. The shopping cart transforms into a makeshift walker for Rob while Laura has her permanent downward head tilt and a cane. This does not go unnoticed by the fellow shoppers or staff. Rob greets each store employee by name with a genuine smile, he’s the real deal. I reach for the items that are too high, too low or too far away. Then I get out the way so they can do what they can, I am mindful of their need to participate as much as possible.

Shopper: It’s so nice that you help them. Are they your parents?

Me: No, I’m a friend of the family.

Laura will refer to me as their driver or nurse depending on who asks (psst…I’m not their nurse or a nurse of any kind, this has been mentioned). Rob refers to me by my name.

That’s really how I see myself. Yes, I get paid to help but I am so much more than paid help. I am an advocate at doctor appointments, a reminder to take medication and I bring yummy meals. I represent freedom with the prolonged ability to live home independently.  I am contact with the outside world when the walls feel like they are closing in. I am a listener, a friend, a caregiver. I am the triage between family members. It is so much more than errands and tasks around the house, it is mutual respect, genuine concern and affection. I am indeed, a friend of the family.

First Bird of the Day

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First Bird of the Day

I had another visit with Rob and Laura today. For those that aren’t familiar, Rob and Laura are a couple in their 90s. I take them out for errands and shenanigans twice a week. The usual stops are the laundromat, grocery store and the post office.

Today’s visit included a feed store which is a happy place for my friend Rob. I checked the stash last week and knew we were running out of everything. We left the feed store with 55 pounds of bird seed which included: black-oil sunflower seed, Nyjer thistle and striped sunflower.

My knowledge of birds and bird feed is microscopic as this is all new to me. I have been filling their various feeders for the past three months and I can vouch for the popularity of the chosen seeds. This morning I found a little bird (perhaps a finch?) that managed to get inside the globe shaped feeder. He was having a feast in there. I did a quick search online to see if I could find a picture that was similar to what I witnessed, no luck. I did however find a bird feeder which can be attached to the window (Featured photo Bird Feeder) in such a way as to taunt your indoor cat. Seems like a a pretty miserable thing to do but cats give as well as they get so game on Tiger.

While we were driving Rob told me lots of bird stories. One was about how he and a group of bird nerds (my term not his) counted the hawks that were migrating to Mexico. He told me his group counted twenty-five thousand hawks. Which caused me to have a bunch of internal questions that I did not voice – mostly things like how can you be sure you didn’t count the same bird twice? Did you ever lose count and have to start over? What part of Mexico? Were they staying at an all inclusive? So. Many. Questions.

Then we talked about Maine. Every September a bird watching group would go stay in New Hampshire and then drive over to Maine to bird watch. His oldest daughter joined the group on several occasions. One time they were driving from New Hampshire to Maine and they were cut off – at which point his adult daughter gave the aggressive driver the middle finger. She then proclaimed that everyone had seen their first bird of the day.