Friday, April 22, 2011

Life Lessons Learned From Eagles

I have been mesmerized the last few days.

By this:

Online video chat by Ustream

It's a live feed of a family of eagles in Iowa and it has been observing the family since the hatching of three eagle-babies earlier this month. Millions of people have tuned in, and I've found that it's an incredible time waster look into the lives of a majestic animal: the bald eagle. But it's so much more than that.

It's a lesson in life.

I've seen a lot of things watching those eagles. Things that have taught me. Things that have entertained me. Things that have bored me. Lots and lots and lots of things.

For example, when the mommy was there feeding the three babies and it was tearing the flesh of a rabbit to feed to its hatchlings (ps, according to Mozilla's spell check, hatchling is not a word. Discuss.), and it tore off a piece that was too big and tried to place it in the hatchling's mouth, and that hatchling looked at it, did a Z-snap with its eyes, then said "I know you didn't just try to feed me a piece of rabbit leg the size of your wing!" and then sat waiting expectantly for the size of the scrap to be reduced, and then the mom tried to tear the piece and make it smaller, but it didn't work, and she tried to put it in the hatchling's mouth again, and this time the hatchling just sat there defiantly like "I will not be bothered to respond to this pathetic attempt at parenting..." and finally the mommy eagle got the picture and actually made the piece smaller and then ate the big chunk herself and then the baby deigned to take the smaller scrap. This moment of bird-watching taught me that when my kids give me attitude, it's time to eat a steak and then give them a small piece of it.  And also that birds, or at very least eagles, can Z-snap with their eyes.

Or there was the time that I was all impressed because the mommy was taking care of the hatchlings while the daddy bird was ostensibly out hunting for food and I was like "there's something so wholesome about this," but then the male came flying back to the nest in a flurry of movement (called flying) and dropped a pathetic stick on the already completed nest and his family looked at him like "Seriously? You were gone for four hours and you brought a stick? To a nest made of sticks? Located in a tree which is the source of all sticks?" and he just strutted around like he was da man, and then pooped over the side of the nest. That one taught me a lot of lessons like 1. it's okay as a provider when, instead of food, all you can bring home to your family is a stick. If you strut around with enough confidence, maybe they won't notice and 2. eagle marriages are probably seventeen times more successful than human marriages because even when the husband does something really, really stupid, the wife just accepts him and loves him and 3. what was I saying again? I just got distracted by this really cool webfeed of eagles sitting intrepidly in a nest.

Oh yeah. Lessons.

Probably the most poignant lesson was directly following the lame "stick" moment. The Mommy eagle, not knowing quite what to do with a random stick, just kind of shoved it to the side. But what she didn't realize was that she trapped one of the babies by the neck so that it couldn't move.  At this point, I had grown attached to the little guys. I mean, I wasn't like some people on the message boards (shut up and stop mocking me that I visited a message board--I really enjoy watching these eagles, okay?) who, when they see rain, say stuff like "I'm catching a flight tomorrow to bring those little tykes an umbrella to shield them from the cold." But, I was actually kinda starting to stress out. I was talking to the screen. "Mama eagle. Hey! (tap tap tap on the computer screen) You moved the big stick onto your baby's neck. Baby is contorted now and not moving. He seems pinned to the ground. He might be dying. Hello? (tap tap tap)." But mommy bird just sat there. And time kept passing. And I kept getting more and more uncomfortable, like "am I really going to witness the death of this little chick right now? Death by neglect and strangulation? Is this actually happening? Are none of the other 100,000 people tuned in to this concerned??? Why is nobody doing anything to save the..." and then, out of nowhere, the little eagle started rustling, trying to get up. And at first he couldn't. But then so many prayers were uttered for him/her across the world as we all watched that he/she got the strength needed and... stood up almost effortlessly and the stick rolled off him as if it were made of Styrofoam. And that's when I realized the hatchling had actually just been sleeping, and was never trapped at all. From this  I learned that when your children struggle with life-threatening situations (falling into a river, getting trapped in a car trunk or freezer, etc.), it's best to let them find their own way. It makes them stronger. Okay, that's a lie, I didn't learn that. What I really learned was that it's important to place large sticks on your children's necks. To promote growth. Okay, also a lie. I really learned that sometimes things are a lot less serious than they look, and sometimes parents that we might judge as incompetent know what they are doing a lot more than we give them credit for, and we should be a lot less judgy. (In other words, STOP JUDGING MY PARENTING, OKAY?)

Other observations:

1. It is clear to me that I am a product of youtube and Nature-like shows because for the entire first 10 minutes of watching I kept waiting with dread for some calamity to occur, like one of the fledgling birds falling out of the nest or being eaten by the mommy, or the nest disintegrating, or a fire burning the birds to a crisp, or something else tragic and heart-breaking and cruel and interesting.

Instead, the birds just... kept living their life. And it was awesome.

2. This one is actually kind of real. You might get uncomfortable because It's so real and also cheesy. One day it was bright and sunny and the birds were very active and it was cool to watch them throughout the day and be like "All right. Apparently this is what eagles do on a random Tuesday." I felt this kind of solidarity, like "I'm doing my human thing, and they're busy doing their eagle thing, and this ol' world's a spinnin' and there are good things happening on this planet because somewhere in Iowa a pair of eagles is taking good care of their babies." But then, the next day, it was snowing really hard, so hard that you often couldn't see the birds. And for most of the day they were all huddled up together in the nest waiting for the storm to pass, and for things to get clear and warm and sunny again.  And it was interesting to see. They weren't being "productive." They weren't impatient. They just waited. And (I'm getting nauseous myself, this is so cheesy) it really made me reflect on life and how sometimes the sky is blue and it's sunny and you live hard and do productive things and feel good, and other times you're just an eagle in a snow storm, bundled up with the ones closest to you in your nest, waiting patiently for the snowstorm to pass so you can get warm again.

In closing, I hope you watch the eagles a little bit today. And I hope they inspire you.

Welp, I'm off to watch eagles for 8 hours work! Do you think my own three little eaglets would mind if all I brought home for them was a stick?

I think the youngest Weedling has most aptly expressed her feelings on this matter. (This joke would be more effective if the finger raised was actually the bird, ha, get it? bird, but I think her disapproval is also pretty evident in her expression.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The story about when I had a colonoscopy, Part I

I had a colonoscopy on April Fool's day.

It was kinda funny, because then I went around telling people "I had a camera shoved up my butthole today!" and people would sit and wait for me to be like "APRIL FOOLS!!" but then I wouldn't, and it would dawn on them in this kind of horribly unclear way that I must seriously have had a camera shoved up my butt, and then they'd sputter some laughter or high five me or maybe perhaps it created an awkward silence so profound I could hear the waves of the Atlantic Ocean all the way from Seattle. Can't remember which. It's been almost a month now.

 I found this on the internet for free and it applied. Hope you liked it, of course, but being honest, there weren't a lot of options for an April Fool's image. And by golly, is it April Fools, April Fool's or April Fools' or does it depend on context??? (Image attribution here.)

At any rate, a colonoscopy actually happened. And I think I'd like to tell you about it.

It aaaalllll started when I dropped a deuce. (This time, I decided to do so in a toilet as opposed to in my pants in the forest.) Don't want to get too graphic or detailed or anything, but let's just say that when I used my right hand to gingerly wipe the excrement from my rectum in a forward motion, the white two-ply toilet paper I was using came back up covered in both feces and bright red blood. (Did anybody else just turn red with embarrassment at that sentence? I win at being horrible at euphemism!!!)

It wasn't a little bit of blood. It was a lot bit of blood.

But it wasn't enough to call an ambulance or grab a blood bag for donating purposes or anything. Just enough to be unsettling and then forgettable.

But then, the next day, it happened again.

At this point, I started getting worried. I walked over to the registrar of the middle school I work in as a therapist. Her name's Keri and she's about my age, and she's very cool, and knows a lot about health and blood and science and all that crap. So I thought, "perfect candidate" not taking into account just how awkward the discussion I was about to engage in was going to be

Me: Hey, I know you research health stuff a lot and have done a lot of reading. Do you mind if I ask you a health related question?

Keri: Sure! I really do love that stuff.

Me: It's kinda personal... is it okay if it's a little personal?

Keri: Sure, I don't mind. What's on your mind?

Me: Wellllll... (awkwardly shifts weight)


Me: (Deep breath) Okay. So... rectal bleeding. Thoughts? (flinches)

Keri: Not good.

Me: .....Uh oh.

Keri: Why do you say "uh oh?"

Me: No reason (begins to whistle, looking around the room like nothing has happened)

Keri: Josh, are you trying to tell me that you had blood in your stool?

Me: YES. Thanks you for not making me tell you that I dropped a deuce and discovered I have blood coming out of my anus. Because that would have been reeeeaally awkward.

Keri Yeah. That sure would have been. Whereas this is the most natural conversation in the world....

Me: Right? Surprisingly NOT awkward!

Her: Yeah.... Not awkward at all.... (looks at me, horrified)

Me: So, tell it to me straight. Is it cancer?

Keri: I'm not really a doctor...

Me: Colon cancer, huh? I knew it.

Her: Listen, I've read some articles about health, but I don't treat patients or anything. I'm a registrar. From what I've read, blood in the stool could be some pretty serious stuff. Or it could be hemorrhoids. But I think you should probably see a doctor.

Me: I so will... not ever do that thing you just said about seeing a doctor. Thanks for the diagnosis, Keri! Hemorrhoids it is!

Keri: See a doctor.

Me: All right, been fun chatting. I'm off to do some important work in my office now where I may also be praying or crying in the fetal position at the thought of cancer.

Keri: Or calling your doctor?

Me: Yeah... again, so not that.

,,,I ended up calling my doctor.

His verdict was basically this: Dude, you're 30. You probably either tore up your bum bum with an unusually large poo poo, or you have internal hemorrhoids,,.

I was like "WHEW."

But then he was like, "...unless you have a family history of intestinal cancers,"

To which I was like "I don't have one single relative that has had cancer in any generation of my wait a minute it what am I saying my mom's sister had intestinal cancer like eight months ago."

And he said: "Oh."

And I said: " wasn't hard to excise?"

And he said "I think you're gonna need a colonoscopy."

And I said: "I hate you" and then drop kicked him like a ninja. In self defense. Either that, or we set up an appointment with a gut doctor. Like I said this all happened so long ago that the memories are hazy.

 "You are probably going to die. Unless we put a camera up your butthole. On April Fool's'ss day."

And that was the day a 30-year-old The Weed set up an appointment to do a procedure that people who are 60 feel a little bit young for.

Stay tuned for PART II: How The Weed's Butthole Became a Faucet

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bambi Nuggets

 Hello Bambi.

While reading Anna her bedtime story which was a book version of Disney's Bambi, we got to the part where hunters kill Bambi's mom. The following conversation ensued:

Anna: Why did the hunters kill Bambi's Mommy?

Me: Well, hunters kill for sport. And they also kill animals to eat them.

Anna: The hunters ate Bambi's Mom?

Me: Yes, sweetie. They did.

(At this point I am awaiting some sort of cry-fest while Anna, who literally weeps every time she hears Brahms's Lullaby because she finds it so poignant, mourns the loss of Bambi's mom. Instead she sits there pondering for a few moments with a serious look on her face. And that's when things got really disturbing)

Anna: I want to go hunting.

Me: You do?

Anna: Daddy, can I go hunting?

Me: (trying to appear supportive of all life decisions) Of course you can, sweetie.

Anna: Can you take me hunting, Daddy?

Me: Well, I don't really hunt myself. But if you want to go hunting when you're a little older, I'm sure we can find a way to make that happen. Why do you want to go hunting?

Anna: Because I need to kill animals.

Me: Oh.

Anna: Daddy?

Me: Yes?

Anna: How do hunters eat animals?

Me: Well (hesitates) they remove the meat from the animals' bones, then cook it.

Anna: What does it mean to remove the meat?

Me: Well, it's the animals' muscles. We eat animals' muscles. So whenever we're eating meat, we're eating the muscles of animals.

Anna: Mmmm! I want to try deer muscles.

Me: ..meat, sweetheart. We call it meat.

Anna: Have I ever eaten muscles off of animals' bones?

Me: (contemplates the best way to phrase this) Sure you have sweetie. Every time we eat meat, it means you're eating the muscles of animals. Like hamburgers. Hamburgers come from cows. And tuna is a fish. And chicken.

Anna: (eyes light up) Ohh! Chicken comes from chickens???

Me: Yes sweetie. That's right. When we eat chicken, we're eating chickens' muscles.

Anna: Chickens are filled with chicken nuggets!

Me: a way yes. Chicken nuggets are chicken meat covered...

Anna (creepily giggling with delight): Bambi is filled with Bambi nuggets!!!

Me: Yes. Yes, I suppose he is in a way. 

Anna: Can I eat a Bambi nugget? 

Me: (vomits a little, half smiling, semi-nodding)

Don't these muscly Bambi nuggets look moist and delicious? Mmmmmmm.

Anna: Daddy? (pensive look) 

Me: Yes sweetheart? 

Anna: I have muscles on my skeleton. 

Me: That's true.

Anna: Do people eat people muscles? 

Me: (Contemplates the possibility of discussing Jeffrey Dahmer before realizing that's not something to talk about with a four-year-old. Particularly one who is showing a penchant for the concept of devouring the flesh of beasts). No sweetie. Nobody eats people meat. People just eat other animals' meat. 

Anna: ....I think people meat is probably the most delicious. 

Me: Maybe so, sweetheart. (head pat) Maybe so. (shudders)

In conclusion: Never in a million years did I anticipate that "the talk" with my daughter regarding the murder of Bambi's mom would lead to a conversation that would give me nightmares. And make the entire Weed household contemplate vegetarianism.

I will now go to the kitchen and ensure all cutlery is safely secured in its drawer lest Anna get the hankering for some Daddy nuggets. 

Photo attribution here and  here

Friday, April 8, 2011


I'm becoming an Ethnic Minority Mental Health Specialist. Because as a 30-year-old white male from the suburbs of Utah, there's nothing I understand more acutely than marginalization.

Yes, if there's anything that towheaded little The Weed in a blue suit is going to understand later in life, it's racial discrimination. 

No, but seriously, I'm actively working towards obtaining this specialization because I feel passionate about it. And for it, I had to attend a training yesterday. Now, one of my very first humor posts was this post about a mental health training I had been to that seriously almost made me kill myself it was so excruciating. Thankfully, yesterday's was actually really awesome and didn't make me yearn for a javelin to the stomach so I could welcome the distraction of stomach acid slowly eating away at my internal organs until I died. Quite the opposite, the workshop was presented by a sassy, funny mixed-race lady who knew her stuff, and it was really engaging.

One of the things that made her so good was that she was very real about some of her awkward race/gender prejudices, and instances when they showed up. Like how she automatically gets disappointed when a woman instead of a man answers an IT call because her internal prejudice is that men will be better equipped to help her. Or when she recently was in a Mexican restaurant and needed service, and automatically asked a Latino guy if he worked there even though he was dressed in a suit and tie.  (The bottom line of the research behind her philosophy if you care is that we ALL have prejudice, and being culturally sensitive is all about how we react to our own prejudices and not about being "color blind," which is A. impossible and B. doesn't take into account minor details like, hey, some people actually have different colored skin and different cultures which *gasp* they don't want people to just ignore in some kind of white-washed wonderland of active denial. (Reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael Scott says he's color blind and then criticizes Oscar for calling himself Mexican saying it's a racist slur. And then he gets slapped by Kelly for mimicking an Indian accent. Is me describing a funny show funny? No. Am I rambling? Yes. Do I have a point? Yes. See post-parentheses.))

Point: her stories reminded me of some of my majorly awkward racial mess-ups where I completely made a FOOL OF MYSELF. And I'm going to share one of them with you.

Here it is: I am at BYU and I am in an advanced literature class with a professor, Gloria Cronin, who happens to also be in charge of the student society for blacks on campus. She has mentioned this several times, and has talked about how alienated some of them have felt on campus because they are seen not as part of the whole, but instead as some anomaly, while fellow-students insistently point out how they differed from the norm. (I think the black population of BYU is like... 5. That's an exaggeration. But not by a lot.) It made me sad.

One day I saw a black student sitting in the lobby of one of the buildings and I decided to be a hero and tear down the barrier of difference between us and let her know that I see her just as another student on campus. And I decided to do this by awkwardly walking up to her, sitting down by her, and striking up a conversation. About random stuff. In a small-talk kind of way. In a small-talk kind of way that had nothing to do with her as a person. And everything to do with the fact that she was a black girl on campus. Because that's so normal and seamless and exactly what I would have done had I seen a white girl sitting in the lobby. And nothing makes people feel like part of the mainstream more than random strangers starting conversations about nothing for no reason! Go me! Racial Hero!!!!

The conversation... did not go well.

Me: Hi there!

Black girl: (Looks up at me trying to place my face) Hey.

Me: Are you a student here?

Black girl: Yes...?

Me: Oh. Cool. (awkward pause) Me too.

Black girl: Oh. Good. (smiles then looks back at what she was reading)

Me: So, what's your major?

Black girl: (looking up again) What?

Me: Oh, I was just wondering what your major was.

Black girl: Geography.

Me: (excited face) That's awesome! My wife's a geography major. Have you ever met her? Her name's Laurel Weed.

Black girl: (squinty eyes) I don't think I've met her...

Me: Oh. That's too bad. I think you'd like her.

Black girl: I'm sure I would.

Me: Oh, well I'm sure you know Gloria Cronin, right?

Black girl: No. Who is that?

Me: She's the... (awkwardness rises up like a mist as it becomes very clear just how stupid that question was). She's a professor of mine.

Black girl: Why were you so sure I'd know her?

Me: Well... because... (the awkwardness is so thick it's palpable)

Black girl: (rolling her eyes) Is it somehow related to me being black?

Me: (beet red in the face) Yes. She's the adviser to a group for Black students on campus, and I just assumed... (looks for a pair of scissors to stab self in the face repeatedly in order to lessen the horror of this moment)(finds none)

Black girl: ....

Me: I'm really sorry.

Black girl: It's fine. I get this kind of thing all the time.

Yes. Yes that's right. In my effort to be a hero, I became the very thing I thought I was fighting against. Because that's how good I was at being culturally sensitive. And being aware of how to have a successful conversation with a person.

A few minutes later, a Caucasian serial killer appeared on the TV in the lobby and she turned to me and said "Isn't it strange how many serial killers are white?" And then she got up and left.

I'm not joking.

Anyway, the point here is that all people have moments like this. People of every race have moments like this. And that's okay. We just need to own it, not excuse it, and apologize when it happens. Because it will. It's only a distinct few however, like myself, who decide to write a blog-posts about how idiotic they are because they need the attention.

The Weed is a Racial Superhero!!!!