Tag Archives: people

An ear-full of waxwings…

…or a museum if you prefer.

Cedar waxwings

Many years ago (eons in Internet age) I searched for an Internet name that suited me. Because I was into birding, I focused on avian handles. I tried “chickadee” but it was already taken in the places I wanted to join. I considered “painted bunting,” a bird I longed to see in person, but the name seemed a little suggestive. I finally settled on cedar waxwing because it was probably my favorite bird at the time, one I’d only seen a precious few times and one whose looks always made me smile. Cedar waxwings look like they are wearing cat-eye sunglasses.

Luckily for me no one else used the name “cedarwaxwing” or “Cedar waxwing” or even “waxwing” on any of the social media sites I was interested in joining. This continued for years, although I don’t think I was able to score a cedarwaxwing account at gmail. I did register a waxwing account there though and it has been my general email account since September 2004.

Over the years I have received a fair number of misdirected emails from people or companies that I had nothing to do with. Not of the SPAM variety, but genuine mistakes.

I have gotten emails from travel agencies with other people’s itineraries. I have gotten emails from personal trainers with complete workout instructions attached. I got an email thanking me for nominating a cyclist for an award.

I usually respond to the email and explain that they have the wrong email address. I rarely hear back. But recently I have had pleasant conversations with strangers concerning the mistake.

Elizabeth, for instance has sent me (thinking I am Kim and Jess) Easter, valentine, fourth of July and general catch-up emails. I responded each time, explaining I was not Kim and Jess. I never heard back until this year when I replied to the entire group, explaining that I was becoming concerned that Kim and Jess were not getting all the well-wishes. I immediately received an email from Elizabeth’s sister explaining that Elizabeth was not all that worldly when it came to emails. She promised to talk to Elizabeth and figure out Kim and Jess’ real email address. Elizabeth replied later, apologizing, but also saying she’d been using my email address for Kim and Jess for 10 years. That was Valentine’s day. I got another Easter email and just left it. Poor Kim and Jess.

In late February I received a confirmation of an order made by Kenneth of Swansea, Wales, UK for some light bulbs. Because there was no way to contact Kenneth by email since he used mine, I wrote him a letter and mailed it to him. I promptly forgot about it and was surprised, and touched that Kenneth sent me an email explaining the situation a couple of weeks ago:

Hi Dona,

Please accept my sincere apologies for the mix up when I used the wrong email address. You were very kind in taking the trouble to write to me.

Unfortunately, I mislaid your letter which had only now come to light.

I am a very keen birdwatcher, who, sadly has never seen a Waxwing. The bird has fascinated me since childhood so it seemed opportune to use it as an email address. You had beaten me to it with Google, so I added a “my…”. However, I recently bought a domain where I can use Wax.wing. I must have mixed things up when creating both the order and the separate history site. Sincere apologies again for causing you this trouble.

I hope you have managed to see Waxwings!



(In Wales, it is common to give your child two names, but use the middle one, hence I’m not known as Kenneth)

I replied that I’d forgotten that I sent him the note and that I had, indeed, seen cedar waxwings. I also sent him a photo of a cedar waxwing that stopped in my yard.

The day after I received Paul (aka Kenneth)’s email and while I was waiting to board a plane for Seattle, I received an email from “Jerry’s Rogue Jets, Oregon’s one and only mail boat tour, delivering Fun Since 1895!” I was confused since we were headed to Oregon as soon as we picked up our rental car and thought that perhaps Clare had booked a mail boat tour (whatever that is). I checked the invoice and saw that it was another case of someone using the wrong email address. This time it was a woman named Amy. Luckily her telephone number was also on the invoice so I called it and left a message. She replied with a text message about an hour later, just as I was boarding the plane.

Hi- thank you for the heads up on the invoice. Corrected. Sorry for the trouble. You are the original waxwing! I’m #26.

Some people would not bother setting people straight about email address mistakes, but I think it is the right thing to do. Not that you have to go overboard, but just because waiting for an email can be a pain. The replies I have received have always been pleasant and the people have always been thankful and I have had, albeit brief, conversations with these people with whom we share a love of one genus of bird.

I am sure I will continue to receive misdirected emails and I am sure I will continue to reply.

Marching bands and solicitors

no solicitorsI’m ashamed to say that we do not normally give to people that show up at our door. Sorry Greenpeace. Gosh, Save the Bay — not this year…

We usually give to our local rescue squad and will buy Girl Scout Cookies, but we won’t buy candy bars from random teenage boys who knock on our door.

drumBut, Internet, hear this now, it seems I will give money to people who ring out doorbell accompanied by marching bands because I did it tonight.

Here’s what happened. As I was cooking dinner I heard some banging noises that got louder and louder. After ruling out kids banging on things in the house I looked outside and saw a marching band walking up the street. At the same moment that I saw the marching band the doorbell rang. I answered the door and two young women who identified themselves as college students (and wore matching sweatshirts with initials on them) stood there with a marching band behind them. I thought they might be Christmas carolers. The introduced themselves, explained what they were ringing our doorbell for (poor children in Africa) and said they needed $21 to call it a night. All the while a marching band stood behind them.

Well, of course I gave them money (well — Andrew did — through Clare. And they said she looked like a model.). Not $21 though. Am I a fool in thinking I should give them what they wanted? Let other neighbors give them the rest. They were bound to make the money they needed for those poor children in Africa with the marching band behind them.

At dinner we looked at the pamphlet they gave us.  It had nothing to do with medical supplies for the poor children in Africa. It was called The Law of Liberty — Enduring Principles of Freedom. The front page sported a bald eagle and the ten commandments. The inner pages held nothing but religious mumbo jumbo words. A brief Internet search links this pamphlet with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

This is sad because I kind of like the Seventh-day Adventists. I didn’t know they had marching bands though.

Note: After thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that these people just picked up a bunch of these pamphlets and are distributing them as a receipt for giving them money. I hate to be so cynical, but it just was so weird. Have you heard of this?


Waking up to the delightful although not unexpected news that Barack Obama is the president-elect is a lovely cap on an unforgettable voting experience.

I wasn’t sure when I was going to vote — I’d hoped to do it with a minimum of waiting because I had a full day ahead of me what with computer issues, a pet crisis and a teenager in need of new jeans. I didn’t listen to the news before heading out at about 10 to cast my ballot, but didn’t expect to encounter a long wait at that time in the morning.

When I pulled into the parking lot of our polling place — the local rescue squad — and saw the line stretching around the building and down the sidewalk, my eyes teared up. I was proud to be a part of this and proud of my fellow citizens.

Honest Tea MobileI parked in the overflow parking lot of the church next-door (which had a few empty spaces despite the fact it also was a polling place) and headed to stand in the line, not knowing how long I would be there. It didn’t take long before everyone was talking to everyone else. One woman was asking those around her their opinions of various constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot. Others were talking about the excitement in the air. After about 15 minutes in line a black and white Saturn pulled up and employees from Honest Tea, a company based in Bethesda, handed out free Honest Tea drinks to folks standing in the line. That only added to the party atmosphere.

Mary and Bob, my neighbors. In line to vote.As the line snaked around the building and up the steps, I noticed my neighbors at the end of the, now significantly shorter, line. They were eligible to go ahead of the crowd and take the elevator, by merit of their age, but they stood in line like the rest, and chatted with their fellow voters.

I saw several people from my neighborhood and people I’d met over the years through school connections. We nodded or shared a few words as we crossed paths.

A woman ahead of me is becoming a Head Start teacher after retiring from NEA. The woman behind me brought her children and her oldest son, who was voting for the first time. The man directly in front of me had his preschool aged daugther who behaved very well, standing in line that long.

Standing in line is not anyone’s favorite activity, but yesterday I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. When my husband voted — he said there was no line and I should have waited until 4 to vote. Nope — I’m glad I went when I did. It was the best hour I’ve spent in a long time.  And the best time waiting in line ever.

I read the blog of a woman I knew a few years ago, and her post today is that she didn’t vote because of the line and then didn’t go back to vote because of the rain later in the day. I feel sorry for her, missing out on the excitement and comaradie of the event.

Happy Birthday Howard, a Day late.

I’ve met few folks born on February 29th, but the person who stands out is Howard. Howard was a 4th grade teacher whose classroom was on the other side of the partition from the one in which I co-taught my last year of teaching. I liked him a lot – we talked most days during lunch and after school. Not talk about school or the students we taught, but more about life and our personal philosophies on life, love, music and reading. Last I knew he and his gorgeous wife moved to another country to teach English.

Hope he had a fantastic birthday. He must be — what — all of 9 by now?

Coach Manon

pp8t7642ci.jpgI’d heard great things about Andrew’s wrestling coach before Andrew was on the team. Then this summer Andrew received a wonderful & personal letter from him welcoming Andrew to the team. Andrew, Dean and I have all received emails from the coach on various matters, all of which have been delightful to read – both in content and form.

Yesterday the coach proved, once again, what a fine role model he is in an interaction with Andrew after an upsetting loss.  I’m not going into details, they are private, but Derek Manon is one heck of a wrestling coach on a number of levels.

A drive in the country

P6130011_edited-1 Today we’d planned on picking up Dean’s mom and taking a drive in the country. Because Ruth was not feeling well we just visited with her for an hour and then went on the drive ourselves.

Riding with my dad in the car reminds me of when we’d take his mother on drives along the same roads 40 years ago or more. She always told us who’d lived in each of the homes along the way – and was distressed if it looked like a home she’d lived in looked uncared for.

We had a mission – we were delivering flowers to my Grandmother and Grandfather Patrick and to my cousin Jim.P6130002 Dad thought Jim would like blue flowers. We got Grandma Patrick some white ones. I like the cemetery where they are buried. It is quiet and small. They are surrounded by fellow farmers – some of whom were born in the later part of the 1700’s. I asked dad if he had a cemetery plot. He said he didn’t and didn’t want to talk about it. Funny – he spends a lot of his time talking about the dead. Those who’ve passed recently and those who’ve been gone for decades.

After the cemetery he wanted to drive past the last farm his father owned. The farm he could easily have inherited. He’s obviously somewhat regretful that he chose a different path in life – one that didn’t include farming.

P6130006 We continued our drive, and then dad thought I’d like to visit mom’s friend Jill and her husband, Gordon. They are quite interesting. He does something technical (writes code for software?) for a living as well as helps Jill raise alpacas. Jill also creates hats and slippers from the alpaca wool. She showed me her creations. I would have bought a hat, but I look awful in hats. Maybe later this summer when we visit again I’ll buy a pair of slippers. Clare might like a hat.

The have A LOT of alpacas. At least 20. And they are beautiful. Two were just recently born – one was born on June 6th of this year. The mother stood next to the baby and chattered to her when we first got there. Cindy said it was because we P6130007 were strangers. Whatever it was – it was so cool. Makes up for me missing the balloon fest on Saturday.

Dad got tired and I could tell he wanted to go home, so we left. He went to bed and I walked to a nearby restaurant for an Italian Beef sandwich – something I cannot get in Maryland unless I make it myself.

On the way to Paul’s I passed by a cacophony of memories.

  • The house that once was the huge pile of dirt where I would practice my Hollywood falls.
  • The house where the woman who sold me the cookbook told me she was living on borrowed time
  • The house where the mean old man lived who made beautiful Christmas decorations
  • Stephanie’s house, that once burned nearly to the ground, but the cats were found safely.
  • Paul’s parking lot, that once was The Red Barn, a fast food chicken restaurant. My dad didn’t like eating there because he swore they served fried pigeon.

On the way back I passed the five homes that were built as affordable housing. They still look like projects, but I noticed that the owners have tried to make them attractive. One house has a beautiful door with beveled diamond-shaped glass panes. Another has mansion style (and sized) pillars on either side of the driveway which leads to a carport.

This lot used to house a huge Victorian mansion. On the side was a mulberry bush that, as kids, we would pick and eat the fruit until we felt sick. That mulberry bush is long gone, but I saw evidence of mulberries on the property. I’ll let myself believe the bushes I know are still there, are distant offspring of the mulberry tree I remember.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

First of all, I had no idea Kurt Vonnegut, Jr was born before my father. I always think of him as young. I thought he was maybe ten years older than me, so when I read of his death on Tuesday at age 84, I was shocked. I would have thought John Updike was older than Vonnegut – or that they were the same age.

I cannot say I was ever a huge fan of Vonnegut’s work, but did read and enjoy a couple of his books in high school – Cat’s Cradle & Slaughterhouse 5. They’ve stuck with me all these years later – certain passages from the novels will always be a part of me.

The tribute on his website, is particularly moving. It is a simple bird cage, the door open with the words Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1922 – 2007 underneath.