This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Twas the day before Thanksgiving…

Yeah, this is what I come up with when I don’t want to be writing for school. Here’s a little dream I had this Thanksgiving Eve. Enjoy!

Twas the day ‘fore Thanksgiving
And all through the land,
The people were scurrying to come up with a plan.
The news was on non-stop, crying violence and pain;
In hopes that folks could find victims to blame.
The stores were all busy, and tempers flew hot;
While visions appeared of deals to be got!
And kiddies in their pjs and I in my sweats;
Had just sipped the cocoa, as good as it gets!
When down in the basement arose such a ruckus,
I sprang from the couch to see what fuss is.
Off to the staircase I flew like a goof,
The kids were sure fighting and now I had proof!
The toys and the junk in the unfinished space,
Gave the illusion of mayhem, not a thing in its place!
When what to my screen weary eyes did appear?
But a clean little corner of holiday cheer.
With a sweet little cherub, so funny and cute,
And his brother and sister, both smart and astute.
They stood up and picked up and gathered the stuff,
The dolls and the robots, the cars; all enough!
To donate, to sell, to throw away, or just pitch,
They want it cleaned out and they just don’t care which!
To the top of the bookshelf, to the back of the trunk!
Now clean it up, sweep it up, pick up the junk!
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky;
So to the job, these children now turned,
With the dusting and sorting, oh my, they had learned!
And then in a twinkling, I felt such great joy.
They’d each like to donate a favorite toy!
As I sucked in my breath and felt ready to praise
Up the staircase they hurried, these children I’d raised.
They were dressed all in fleece, from their head to their feet
And the oldest’s top and bottom would just not quite meet.
A bin full of toys they were pulling behind,
And they looked like sweet elves, but still didn’t mind.
Their eyes, how they twinkled, their giggles, how funny!
They squeals were like music, their smiles so sunny!
The sweet little creatures moved as quick as the light
And they cleaned out the basement so nicely that night!
The piles of their toys that they knew they’d not need
Were just sitting and ready to be their good deed.
They’d sorted them carefully, marking by age
The dollies, the puzzles, that Minecraft game rage.
They were jolly and sleepy and sweetly alive
And I teared up when I saw them and tried not to cry.
A rub of their eyes, and a twist of their heads,
Soon gave me to know it was near time for beds.
I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work
I loaded the toys, they’d worked hard, I can’t shirk!
And driving to Goodwill as fast as I could,
I thought how I’d never believed that they would
Realize all their blessings and give something back.
But I must remember and not give them flack!
And I heard them but whisper as they started to doze:
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mom!”
They’re good kids, I suppose!

 

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It’s not about not judging, it’s about not giving a $h!t #MommyWars

wpid-wp-1416081794192.jpegOh, I’m gonna piss folks off with this one, aren’t I? I guess I’ll be accused of some sort of participation in the Mommy Wars, but I’m still not even clear what that means. I think it means expressing some sort of opinion on how other Mommies are Mommy-ing. Here’s the thing about that, though. See, we’re all starting these Mommy Blogs so we can spout off about stuff we’re thinking about. We want to write about how we feel about life as a Mommy, or a woman, or a wife, or a person, or a citizen, or a drinker of wine, or an eater of salads, or whatever. We all want to write stuff to “brain dump” it, but anybody who says they don’t care if folks are reading is lying. But offending folks means nobody will read anymore, or that you’ll go viral, depending how offensive you are and to which side. We can’t write anything too controversial, because we might offend. We can’t write anything specific about our own opinions, because that might be considered offensive to those who have an opposing opinion. We can’t write about how Breast is Best because that might make the formula feeders feel bad. We can’t say staying home with our kids has been a super awesome thing, even though it’s crazy hard, because that might make those who have to work to pay the bills feel bad. And we can’t write about being glad to send the kids to daycare so we can go have grown up time in the office because that means you’re shaming those Mommies not living up to their male-equal potential.

But the prevailing opinion that we should stop “Mommy-shaming,” that we can write about. We CAN write about how everyone’s choices are valid, we all have to do what’s best for our own family, and “judging” each other is only causing more harm. What the hell does that even mean!? Are you seriously telling me that you think that the mom who has a college degree but feels so strongly about being at home with her kids that she spends hours clipping coupons and figuring out how to feed her three kids on 50% of the household income they had before kids is  NOT going to have ANY opinion on the mom who works full time just so they can afford designer clothes? NO OPINION at all? Come on, that’s just not realistic. Whether or not she expresses that opinion is her call. Whether the working mom CARES about that opinion, now that’s another thing. That’s realistic to expect someone to control. SAHMom has no right to stop WOHMom at the Back-To-School Open House and spout her opinion, but if she puts it on her blog (not calling WOHMom out by name, duh), and WOHMom reads it, SO WHAT? If she’s offended that’s WOHMom’s problem. And if WOHMom wants to write a book about how gratified she is by her work and how she can’t imagine being stuck home all day with the laundry and the kids, how is that offensive to SAHMom? For crying out loud, if we all have to make the choices that are best for our own family, why do we spend so much time justifying them in the form of rants about how nobody’s choices deserve judging.

What’s your point, Bird? I don’t know. I’m just tired of being told not to judge. That’s ridiculous. Humans judge. We just do. Obviously I think that the choices I’ve made are the best, or at least I did when I made them. Yes, by “best” I mean that they were/are best for MY family, based on available information and my own beliefs and values. Yes, if you make a different choice based on the same information, I think it’s the wrong choice. Doesn’t mean ANYTHING TO ANYONE! NOTHING, nada, zip, zilch, zero. I thought MY choice was right. I will do you the courtesy of believing that you, like me, think YOUR choice is right. And besides I am sometimes wrong. Wrong about my own choices, wrong about what I think of yours. Catch me on a good day and I might even admit it. Don’t count on it, but SO WHAT? The only thing that is offensive about me believing MY choice is right would be if I felt compelled to somehow force my choice on you and your family.

Just so you know, none of the moms I know in real life EVER talk about how wrong someone else’s choices are, especially with regard to the have a job or stay home question. It just doesn’t happen. So, despite all the blogs, media articles, books, whatever about these “Mommy Wars” and the tension between them, it’s a made up thing. If you are getting your self worth, or letting it be stolen from you, by somebody else’s book or blog, you might need to rethink how you made your choice to begin with.

Maybe instead of the Mommy Wars devolving into a bunch of high powered CEO moms, blogger moms, and playground moms all patting each other on the back congratulating each other for making choices, any choices, whatever the choices, with no judgement about any choice ever, how about we accept that we don’t agree with everyone’s choices and we stop being so darned sensitive to the idea that someone might disagree with our choices. You’re probably judging me right now for that crazy run-on sentence.

That’s okay. I can take it!

 


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#NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month

Okay, BlogHer, I’m in!

What a great month for National Blog Posting Month! November is a little crazy, but not crazy like December. There’s so much to talk about in November, well, for me anyway. I love this little semi-pause between chaos of back to school through Halloween, and the holidays. The weather is firmly NOT summer, and I feel like I’m fully into the most productive season of my year.

Can I do it? Can I actually blog every day for a month? That’s the challenge I’m setting for myself. I always feel like I have so much to say but I shouldn’t bother until it’s all put together in some totally rational (well, okay, semi-rational) form. Maybe I’ll get better at that if I do it every day for a month. Maybe I’ll just ramble and run off all my followers, few as they are. I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

So, it being November 1, All Saints’ Day, I’d like to start by telling you about the wonderful, healthy, nutritious breakfast my children ate this morning. I’d like to, but I cannot. Not one person under age of 11 has eaten anything but candy so far today, and it’s almost noon. AND, they’re all glued to the screens in the basement. PlayStation, Kindle, and PC are all going strong. But, after a few weeks of video game ban, and my refusal to buy Halloween candy in advance because it gets eaten, I suppose they deserve their little party. Daddy will be enforcing a basement clean up party in the afternoon, anyway.

Halloween was a success, and even this Grinch had a good time. Girlie and her friends had a ball. Pending approval of the other parents, I’ll share a picture at some point. Middle Bird had a lot of fun trick-or-treating, especially after they ditched the little guy and Daddy showed him how to really cover ground. I think the total candy haul in this house is a little ridiculous. The Baby Bird headed out as Buzz Lightyear, but ditched the wings this time. There was just no talking him into it. He still did quite well with his candy haul. I’m not doing a lot of candy monitoring around here. Frankly, I’m hoping they will either burn out, or get rid of it quickly! Myself, I’ve had my fill. I was a bit gluttonous last night and this morning’s sprouted wheat toast with hard boiled egg and sliced tomato was just what my body was screaming for!

wpid-20141101_115000.jpgGiven that the house is bursting with candy, it’s naturally time for me to get back to eating a little better, right? Yeah. The Paleo Experiment of last winter was very successful, and though I don’t think I need to be quite so strict about it, I think I’ll be leaning that way for a while. I felt really good, and I want some more of that! I finally got around to replacing the food processor attachment to the Cuisinart, and I invested in a mandolin slicer and a spiral slicer. The plan is to cut out almost all grain, sprouted wheat being one exception, a lot of dairy, most sugar, and generally avoid all processed foods. It’s not a diet, just a style shift in what I eat. I’m not going to beat myself up if I decide that I just HAVE to have one of the fabulous apple cookies my mother only makes at this time of year. For now, I’m off to the store for more jars. I’m going to roast a chicken to day and get the broth going, plus I want to give a shot to making fig apple butter in the crock pot. Surely I’ll be blogging about that tomorrow, right?


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Heroin happens. Why we HAVE to keep talking about it!

So, here I sit in the middle of my not-so-clean house, not cleaning it. Yesterday was the final deadline for my summer class, it had been extended from last Friday. I really hate when the finish line gets moved, but there you go. I’ve been hanging on for this class to be over so I could get on with summer and all my grand summer plans, and this morning all I feel motivated to do is sit here. Gave each kid a bowl of oatmeal and now I’m just wallowing in the idea that I don’t HAVE to do anything. It will pass in a minute and I’ll get up and get on with my to-do list for the day. Wash the shower curtain in our bathroom, strip and wash the kids’ beds, scrub the upstairs bathrooms, go the grocery and pick up graduation gift for the last grad party of the season. Think about the fun the kids and I can have next week with no homework hanging over my head.

Life is good. My life is good. I am so aware of my blessings today.

Last week’s post about heroin lurking just on the edge of our world got a lot of hits. I am glad that folks are reading. I got feedback on Facebook, through emails, and even a comment here, about personal experiences of parents. My friend who wrote the piece I posted has written a bit more to share with you. I hope you will read it, too, and keep the conversation going. I can’t tell you how important I think it is to have this conversation. So many of us as parents are hanging on the idea that we can all somehow find the perfect book/blog/philosophy/guide/support group/whatever and we’ll be able to do this job perfectly. Or at least well enough that our children will be spared any pain, or bad decisions, or any of the pitfalls of life. I want to make the point again, with the help of my friend, that we’re all making mistakes and some of our children will get themselves into really bad places, whether it’s drugs, or something else. What I’m NOT saying is that it isn’t worth the struggle. I’m not saying that we should just accept the fact that some of our kids will turn into junkies and all we can do is hope it isn’t ours. I believe that talking about it will do two things. First, it will help remove the stigma felt by these kids who are trying to recover, and by their parents. Less judgement, more love, is always beneficial in healing. Second, it will increase awareness by those of us who don’t have a lot of experience with these things. A head in the sand never solved anything. Ever.

So, here is the next installment of a conversation I hope will continue.

 

How Did You Know?

How did you know? I’m not sure I did.

Why did you go looking? My gut told me to.

You invaded his privacy? I saved his life. For now…

Heroin is seductive; it lures you in and makes you its slave. It does not discriminate and invades families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and cultures. Heroin provides an almost immediate emotional and physical pain free escape from reality. It is as instantaneous as social media. RAPID RESULTS. Something our young people have become accustom too.

Statistics are showing that there is a terrifying trend. More people under the age of 21 are trying heroin. In fact, there has been a sharp increase in first time heroin use in the 12-17 age group. #Staggering

How did this happen? Ohio waged war and shut down illegal pill factories. Unfortunately, they created a climate that was ripe and ready for a heroin epidemic. Pills became less available and costly. Think $80 for a single pill. My son, since rehab, has shared with me that similar to his experience, most of the heroin addicts he knows, started on pills. For my son, his dealer struggled to get pills, so his dealer turned him on to heroin. Here is a

FAST FACT: Did you know heroin costs about $5 a hit. That is cheaper than pot and way cheaper than pills.

Guess what else? Heroin is more accessible and easier to obtain than not only pills, but pot.

The tiny blackish-brown square of black tar heroin, wrapped in foil, placed in a sandwich bag costs about $5. The physical and psychological relief this little mistress provides is reportedly amazing. Euphoric. It gives instant relief to anxiety, depression, mania, physical pain and everything else. You just don’t feel.

Regular use changes brain chemistry. Not only does your tolerance increase, so more is the only thing you desire, but your brain chemistry changes so you think being high is normal. And you will continue to use more, so you avoid any withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include, goose bumps, watery eyes and runny nose, excessive yawning, loss of appetite, tremors, panic attacks, chills, nausea, muscle cramps, insomnia, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, shaking, chills and profuse sweating and irritability.

So first, let me state, I am no expert, I am a mom. And my sons addiction, although I know it is not all on me, it feels like an exceptional parenting fail. So please, no need for you to judge me, I am judging myself daily. So there is no perfect science in how to tell if your loved one is using.

What I know is that my son was dealing with some pretty challenging personal SHIT just before his heroin addiction. I could see he was spiraling and he did not want our advice or help. I also knew he was not coping well with his stress. There was excessive pot smoking. I discovered he was drinking my booze. And although there were fights and consequences, I know he could have cared less and I felt helpless.

Then I noticed a couple times some seriously glassy eyes. It was weird and it was a look I had not seen before. I don’t remember the puddley looking eyes with the tiny pupils. I thought to myself, whoa, he looks messed up. So I would ask if he was okay. How do you think he responded? He’s 20 and he would become volatile if I pressed, so I didn’t.

He was also pulling away from us. Isolating himself, spending time with his personal shit problem girlfriend and became more private and more withdrawn.

In my gut something was horribly wrong, I knew it, I felt it and people around me would talk me out of

it. So I gave it time. I gave it about five minutes.

Then I did it. I invaded his privacy. I went in to my 20-year-old sons room and searched. It didn’t take much searching; I saw the baggie, syringe (sans needle), a small piece of foil, a spoon and a lighter sitting out on a chair. It was right out in the open.

(By the way, what this taught me was that there is no privacy in my house. If I suspect my child is in trouble or doing something troubling, I will search their things and be unapologetic because it could be life or death. It is not a betrayal, it is my house and my rules – I can search and I will search.)\So what were the signs? The signs sucked, I relied on my gut and his behavior. Did my gut tell me he was using heroin? No, but I knew something was happening.

What should you do? Every situation is different. Not every addict presents the same. There are some similarities though. They lie and they get really good at covering their addiction. They may bargain and make promises that heroin never intends for them to keep. They stop caring about everything, except heroin.

BE PRESENT, OBSERVANT AND TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

What should you look for:

Pin Point pupils

Droopy appearance like every limb, including their head is heavy

Dry mouth and extreme thirst

Behavior changes

Appearance lacks care altogether

Withdraws or other behavior changes

Baggies and foil laying about or in trash

Missing tablespoons

Understand that addiction is a disease. It is complex and your loved one will struggle. Relapse is part of this struggle.

Understand the difference between support, enabling and meddling. This is tough, so rely on help from professionals and friends.

TALK ABOUT IT – tell trusted friends and talk about it. This hardship is too much of a burden for you to carry alone. Go to a meeting like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Remember, there is no such thing as recreational heroin use, get them to rehab. Find a program. If they have a family component, go to every meeting, rearrange your life for your family. This is important. Embrace taking things one day at a time. You need to live during this time too. Live and find joy in every day. Look hard for it, because it is there, even if it is to be grateful your loved one is safe and in a facility.

 


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Heroin happens, even here

I really should be working on my last week of class stuff, but as I’d hoped, once I started writing, I can’t stop. And this morning, someone sent me something I want to share. But first, some other thoughts, and some background.

We bought this house in May 2009. Though both my husband and I were drawn to a bit more urban setting, the best schools we could afford, with the most house, were here in Worthington. And since our oldest child would be starting kindergarten in the fall, we were thrilled to find a house in our price range with some of the upgrades it needed, walking distance from shopping and restaurants, not to mention the elementary school, with wonderful neighbors and mature trees. I had never had the experience of moving into a home that I loved with no expiration date on my stay. We would live here for an indeterminate period, a long period. The kids would grow up here. I remember joking that I would never move again. We probably will, but that’s a post for another day.

We were so happy. We loved this place. The spot, the schools, the neighborhood, all of it. We thought it was the perfect American dream we were living. Then one morning in September we looked out the window and saw several police cars parked across the street and many officers in bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets. There didn’t seem to be a high degree of alarm among the officers, so we watched. Eventually they left and we didn’t find out what was going on until we watched the evening news. In the morning, the Columbus Dispatch ran the story with the headline: “13 caught in heroin sweep.” One of those kids lived across the street from us.

Bubble POPPED!

Reality!

There is HEROIN IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! And not just “in our neighborhood” like out there, somewhere, close, but vague. It’s ACROSS THE STREET!

I didn’t panic. I really didn’t. I mean, this kid was out of high school. There was no reason for this incident to affect my children. After all, it wasn’t like they found it in the elementary school, right? But it’s awful damned close to home. I could see into the bedroom window of someone who was doing, possibly distributing, heroin. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not like I’ve never been exposed to people doing heroin. It’s not like I have no experience with drugs and the people who use them. But not like this, not since I became a mother. This is different. No part of me felt sorry for the kid who got busted. No part of me thought, “What a shame they got caught” like I might have 15 years earlier if I’d read about someone caught with a joint. No way. This time all I could think about were this kid’s parents.

I am a fact finder by nature, I guess. Some might call it stalker, but we quibble about language. I wanted to find out about these folks. I hadn’t met them, yet, despite living across the street for four months by then. I looked them up on the tax auditor’s website and found out that they’d lived there for over a decade. They’d probably moved here to put their kids into the good schools we’d moved here for. They’re just parents. How heartbroken they must have been that this was happening. What did they feel like?

I lost some sleep worrying about these parents. I kept imagining myself in their position. I don’t know how you get there, but I knew that despite my best efforts and hours of praying, it could happen. I could find myself in just the same position. I was absolutely sure that at no time had those parents across the street thought to themselves, “Oh, we’ll just let this one thing go and if it leads our kid to get involved in heroin, it will probably be okay.”

But after a while, when there were no more news stories about heroin in our specific neighborhood, just vague rumors about it’s existence in the city, the whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind. Not forgotten. Never forgotten. It’s such a frightening thought, too frightening to really dwell on all the time. So we got back to the business of raising kids who would hopefully avoid such a thing. Kids who would be properly scared of the prospect. Kids who would be smart and strong and capable of pushing back against such evils. But we were not under any illusion that such evils were far away, that they don’t still lurk way too close for comfort.

Then a few months ago a friend “introduced” me to another mom on Facebook. I’d seen her also commenting on our mutual friend’s posts, but didn’t think much of it. One day this mutual friend just posted and tagged us both and said something like, “Here, you two should be friends. You are the same brand of cool.” Well, this particular friend’s opinion is good enough for me, so I had a new friend. You know how you just click with someone right away? Well, that’s how it was with this friend. After a few months, we decided to meet in person for coffee.

When we met, we ended up talking for a few hours, and only because we both had other places to be did the conversation end. But most of the conversation was around the things she told me that were not posted on Facebook. There are lots of blogs and such out there about how we all use Facebook differently, but most of us don’t put our worst stuff up there. We don’t put the stuff that makes us too vulnerable to judgement, to others seeing that life isn’t at least sometimes Pinterest-worthy. Her son was recovering from using heroin.

I was floored. She seemed so, I don’t know, so normal. Like me. So much like a mom making all the same decisions I would make. Like she’d probably approached the subject of drugs with her kids in much the same way that I was. But there it was. A mom whose kid was using heroin. She’d found it in his bedroom. She’d FOUND it! It’s not like she suspected and ignored her own red flag. She’d FOUND it.

Again I found myself realizing that it wasn’t just about making the right parenting choices, whatever those might be. Raising kids is anything but an exact science. Despite all the best intentions, and informed decisions, it had happen to this mother’s son. It could happen to mine.

So, I listened to her tale, and I made many mental notes. I was in awe of the strength she showed in the way she’d handled it and in the way she told her story. Later I went home and digested it all further. I prayed that if it were ever my kid, I would do many of the same things she’d done. First of all, she didn’t bust him, accept his apology with a promise that it would never happen again, and then forget about it. She got his butt into treatment RIGHT THEN. She went through several months of advocating for her kid because there is no good system in place to take care of him. I’m sure it was no picnic for the kid, but I still can’t see it from his perspective. I can only see it from his mother’s eyes.

In the months since, my new friend and I have met again and we’ve continued to communicate regularly. I have encouraged her to start the blog she talks about, but she isn’t ready to do it, yet. But this morning she sent me something she’d written. She’s not ready to out her son, nor does she want to tell his story. This is what she felt and I want to share some of her feelings. I’m betting there are other parents out there who have thought about these things. So, I share this as a bit of hope. Yes, she’s just like me, and many other moms and dads out there. Middle class, good family, involved parent who “kept open the lines of communication.” But it still happened. And here’s how she felt.

Six months.

I am six months out from a day I thought I would not live through. It was the day we found heroin in our son’s room and had to confront him. This day was terrifying, sad, frustrating and a new beginning.

So how does a seemingly normal family respond when you find a substance like heroin in your child’s room? Well:

It makes you question everything you believed in.

It makes you doubt any remote possibility that you were a good parent, because at this point, you pretty much know it was an epic parenting fail.

You long for the days when your child was an infant or toddler and you wish you would have enjoyed them more.

You learn how to live with the terrifying realization that heroin takes many lives and your child’s could be one of them.

You wonder every time your child leaves the house if you will see them alive again. You learn that this struggle is their struggle and you need to focus on you.

You realize you must try to rely on a relationship with a higher power that you now completely wonder if there really is such a thing.

You are also angry because you know this should not be happening but you can’t change or stop it. The pain you know your child is living with, is almost unbearable for you to feel or think about.

You are scared.

You realize your child, whom you have loved with all your heart, is in for a life long struggle and challenge that seems insurmountable to you.

You become keenly aware of every heroin death and it sits like a cinder block on your chest. It is not the life you planned or wanted, but it is now your life.

Come on NEW BEGINNING!! My life came to a halt December 6, 2013. I was afraid. I felt like a failure. But as things evolved, I dug deep and my strength kept our family afloat. As the dust settled, my strength was not needed and I was not sure what to do, but I thought I was okay: I wasn’t. I became sick. Sick with fear, sick with worry.

A friend gave me a gift. She stopped me and took a chance that I could hear her truth. She told me to stop. Stop being paralyzed by my fear. She told me to stop being afraid, afraid to live and afraid to make decisions.

You see, my fear for a long time has been my guide. It was making my decisions for me. I was not in control of my own destiny and I was unable to be myself. The heroin and the fear was defining a new me. I was becoming someone I did not want to be.

Everything felt bad. I took her truth and I am working every day to let go of the fear, turn it over to my higher power and live: live life and be grateful. Live life and stop being afraid and letting the fear guide me into despair. I am grateful for my new friend who took that chance on me and told me to let go of my fear. This is my new beginning.

My son, he has a new beginning too: six months clean. But, that is his story to tell. What I can share is that he is working hard every day and he is happy – and for this, I am incredibly grateful.


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Perfection. It doesn’t exist, but the story DOES!

364_29718079747_5941_nIn 1978 I started second grade at William H. Blount Elementary School on Princess Place Drive in Wilmington, N.C. I liked school. I liked books. I liked the library. I remember being in the space with lots of short stacks and paint-stirrer sticks used to mark the spot on the shelf where you removed a book. I remember going into the library for storytime. I don’t know how often we students were herded into the library and seated on the pea soup colored carpet to listen to a teacher or librarian read a story, but I remember one particular story so clearly.

Do you remember any of the stories you were read in the second grade? How about any of the stories that you never heard again? I mean, sure I remember the Dr. Suess stories. I remember the Madeline stories. I remember Eloise and Curious George. I’ve been reading those, or hearing about them, or watching them be turned into children’s programs, since I was a child. We read those at home and read them over and over. But this one time, this one story, that I would not hear again for 36 years, I remembered. And I spoke of it sometimes to friends. We would laugh about how ridiculous it was. Who tells kids a story like that? I often wondered over the years if I had made it up in my own memory. Or perhaps I just remembered it differently.364_29718084747_6150_n

The story, as I remembered it, was about a perfect little girl and the devil. The devil was, of course, unhappy that a little girl could be so perfect and began trying to get her to be angry. If she were to get angry, he reasoned, she wouldn’t be perfect. So he gave her the chicken pox, but she didn’t scratch or complain. He had a cow step on her favorite doll, but (and I always used this exact phrase in retelling the story) she forgave the cow. He tried all sorts of other tricks that didn’t work, but in the end he did win. He let her have her perfect life, a perfect husband, and a perfect house. And a less than perfect child.

When I started thinking again about becoming a librarian, this story kept coming back to my mind. I knew that I had to find it. I had to find out if it was even real. It seemed like an excellent wannabe librarian challenge. I Googled and Googled, and eventually, I figured out that it was a real story and it appeared in The Devil’s Storybook, by Natalie Babbitt, first published in 1974. At the time, that was fine, I only needed to know that some story about a perfect little girl and the devil was real. I probably twisted it around in my head anyway. I probably didn’t remember the story just right. I’d only been seven, after all, and I have never heard the story since.

364_29718094747_6354_nThis week I happened across an article about my old elementary school. It doesn’t matter much what it was about, so I’ll spare you, but it made me remember those storytimes when I was little. I decided I needed to get hold of a copy of The Devil’s Storybook. It was time that I actually READ the story and compared it to my memory. It only took a couple days for my library’s consortium to get it delivered to my local branch. It’s a really short story, so bare with me while I share the whole thing.

“Perfection,” by Natalie Babbitt

There was a little girl once called Angela who always did everything right. In fact, she was perfect. She had better manners than anyone, and not only that, but she hung up her clothes and never forgot to feed the chickens. And not only that, but her hair was always combed and she never bit her fingernails. A lot of people, all of them fair-to-middling, disliked her very much because of this, but Angela didn’t care. She just went right on being perfect and let things go as they would. 

Now, when the Devil heard about Angela, he was revolted. “Not,” he explained to himself, “that I give a hang about children as a rule, but this one! Imagine what shell be like when she grows up–a woman whose only fault is that she has no faults!” And the very thought of it made him cross as crabs. So he wrote up a list of things to do that he hoped would make Angela edgy and, if all went well, even make her lose her temper. “Once she loses her temper a few times,” said the Devil, “she’ll never be perfect again.”20140307_073628

However, this proved harder to do than the Devil had expected. He sent her chicken pox, then poison ivy, and then a lot of mosquito bites, but she never scratched and didn’t even seem to itch. He arranged for a cow to step on her favorite doll, but she never shed a tear. Instead, she forgave the cow at once, in public, and said it didn’t matter. Next the Devil fixed is that for weeks on end her cocoa was always too hot and her oatmeal too cold, but this, too, failed to make her angry. In fact, it seemed that the worse things were, the better Angela liked it, since it gave her a chance to show just how perfect she was.

Years went by. The Devil used up every idea on his list but one, and Angela still had her temper, and her manners were still better than anyone’s. “Well, anyway,” said the evil to himself, “my last idea can’t miss. That much is certain.” And he waited patiently for the proper moment.

When that moment came, the Devil’s last idea worked like anything. In fact, it was perfect. As soon as he made it happen, Angela lost her temper once a day at least, and sometimes oftener, and after a while she had lost it so often that she was never quite so perfect again.

And how did he do it? Simple. He merely saw that she got a perfect husband and a perfect house, and then–he sent her a fair-to-middling child.

I was stunned at how perfectly I’d remembered the details of the story, but at the same time, how different the story really was. It was essentially the same story I’d remembered, but in Ms. Babbitt’s words, now it was about the concept of “perfection”  and the idea of perceptions, and parenthood, and life. Now, with my 42 year old, mother’s sensibilities, I read this story and cried. Not because I’d ever, EVER been perfect, or even aspired to perfection. Not because my husband, or my house, or any other aspect of my life, is perfect. Not because I have any fair-to-middling children. 364_29718099747_6555_n

My mind is still wrapping itself around this little story. I don’t suppose there are a lot of K-12 librarians reading it to school children these days. Why did I remember it so well? I wonder why it made such an impact on my seven-year-old mind. Regardless, I feel so satisfied in having tracked it down and found out that I DID remember it correctly. I feel so vindicated.


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A Year In Birdland

Today is day 365 of blogging for me. I’ve kept this thing going for a full year. Not sure that it’s any more entertaining today than it was on March 6, 2013, but it’s still here, and that’s saying something, right?

It’s also Ash Wednesday. Lent, Easter, and all the associated dates are so variable, that it’s hard to measure the years by those dates. Middle Bird’s birthday is March 28 and he celebrated his first birthday before he got to his first Easter.

The Girlie Bird’s first trip to church was on Ash Wednesday, that year it was back in February, and she pulled one of those baby power blows just as we stepped to the alter for the imposition of ashes. Yeah, you parents out there know what I’m talking about. When you’re holding your sweet newborn, and she’s sleeping so peacefully, then for just a second she screws up her tiny face for just a second, and there’s a rumbling that’s so deep and so foreboding that it doesn’t occur to you it might be coming from that bundle in your arms, then BAM, the explosion! And I just slipped out quietly hoping there hadn’t been a containment error.

Baby Bird was baptized on Easter Vigil. Actually, all three of the kids were baptized on changeable dates, the other two were Mothers and Fathers Days.

Babbling? Well, yeah, a little. But hey, that’s life. I just wanted to pop in and say it’s been a year. A full year of blogging, and that happens to end on Ash Wednesday, which is, of course, the beginning of Lent. I’m not sure what adventures Lent will bring this year. I don’t know what spring will bring. We’re not to spring, yet, but Lent is surely a good sign that we’re moving that direction!

 


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“My New Year’s Resolutions” or “Why I won’t make resolutions”

I HATE New Year’s Resolutions. I’m all for taking stock and rethinking one’s plan of attack for getting through each day. I’m on board with the concept of looking over the last year and deciding what worked for you and what didn’t, for consciously making decisions to try and adapt habits that improve one’s life and the lives of those around you. I think the New Year gives most people a great opportunity to mark the passage of another year by doing just that and then making a list of the things they resolve to do in the next calendar year. I also think it’s an invitation for failure and I screw up enough all the time without spelling out the ways I will fail at the beginning of the year.

I try to spend time contemplating how to improve my habits. Sometimes I even try to grab hold of a new plan and make new, better habits. I do this all the time. I am sometimes successful and sometimes not so successful. I don’t spend enough time evaluating, and often I just keep on doing the same old thing because that’s easiest. If I have just one real, honest, improve-my-life resolution, it’s to spend more time and effort evaluating what’s working and what isn’t and to ditch the less than productive habits and actively search out and attempt to ingrain more productive habits. There. That vague enough for you? I mean I do mean to do this. But I have specifically worded it in such a way that there is not measurable criteria to ascertain my success or failure in keeping this resolution.

I was thinking about this whole resolution thing as I checked in on Facebook this morning and came across a post by a friend and fellow blogger. Stacey is a full-time pastor, mom, wife, doctoral student, and crazy productive crafter whose handknits look lovely and often make me drool over her posts. She decided to post her Whimsolutions for 2014, and they’re awesome. Why do “resolutions” HAVE to be about losing weight and eating better, being more organized and frugal, or spending more time on my homework. I knew I should be doing that stuff in October, what makes it easier to accomplish in January? The whimsolutions are just fun. They’re still about improving my quality of life, and that of my family. I am totally stealing this idea, okay not really stealing since I gave her credit, but I’m absolutely copying her.

My Whimsolutions for 2014

1. Learn to knit.

I don’t have to finish some great project or learn a bunch of different methods. I don’t have to make any Christmas gifts for next year or any other such thing. I just want to knit something scarf-like. YouTube tutorials, here I come!

2. Take my daughter shopping more.

She still trusts Grandma and Mommy to dress her and though she has opinions about the things in her closet, she’s mostly happy to let us buy her clothes without her and dress her up. That’s fine, but the time spent together sorting through the clothing racks is excellent girlie bonding time. I think we could be chatting about things we might not talk about at the kitchen table or when I tuck her in at night. I always want to press that you-can-talk-to-me-about-anything vibe and shopping seems to be ideal. Plus, it’s fun.

puzzle3. Do a big jigsaw puzzle with Middle Bird.

I think we might be able to get some of that same bonding time that shopping would afford Girlie and me. And I LOVE jigsaw puzzles. I think he will love them, too.

4. Take Baby Bird to the zoo more often.

We have a membership and we use it, but we could go more. He’ll be in school full time soon enough and I’ll miss the time we could have gone. The dishes can wait.

5. Bake more cookies.

Cookies are the perfect treat. You don’t have to eat a ton of them, and they can even be healthy, though I’m not necessarily committing to baking healthy cookies. This is a WHIMsolution you know. Maybe use this blog post (also recommended by Stacey) to perfect a chocolate chip cookie recipe that this family will love.

6. Buy and wear more fun socks.

I’m in a sock rut. I have five or six pairs of black, and five or six pairs of athletic ankle socks, and a handful of blah brown or black trouser type socks. I see people wearing bright socks and they look like fun. How can it not be?

7. Get manicures and pedicures.

Not all the time, I can’t afford an addiction. But once in a while pay someone else to groom my nails. I’m always happy when I do it, but I haven’t in years.

 

I guess I didn’t really land on a theme, but over all I want to spend more energy on bonding with my kids and doing things that aren’t strictly necessary but that improve our quality of life. Wish me luck?


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“Too much of a good thing” or “Time keeps on ticking, ticking…”

I just read a friend’s Facebook status that got me thinking. She posted, in part, “It’s been the loveliest of holiday seasons, but I’m excessed out. Welcoming January and austerity in all things.” Hadn’t thought of it until then, but that’s exactly how I feel.

raw-veggie-and-hummus1If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last few months you know that I adore the holidays. From Halloween right through to Epiphany, I just love it all. The anticipation of November, the chaos and parties of December, even this last week of the year that feels a little like limbo. I love it. I’m really excited about New Year’s Eve and the fun we’ll have with neighbors tomorrow night. But something about my friend’s status knocked me out. I AM ready for some austerity. I am craving simplicity in lots of ways. I want simple foods like toast and raw veggies. I want to drink water, maybe juices. I want to wear nothing but pajamas or jeans and sneakers for a week straight. I want to go to church and worship with predictable, liturgical services.

I wonder why we do this. Is it a human thing, or something our modern culture has taken to the next level? We don’t have to feast to increase our fat reserves while the food is plentiful, before the long bleak winter. I have had such a wonderful Christmas season, but I’m ready for there not to be any cookies or chocolates on my kitchen counter. I’m ready to have simple meals that clean up quickly and let me just sit with the kids. School will resume for me soon enough, too, and I’ll be missing that mental down time.

Competitive Hat Stackers Party, complete with trash talking

Competitive Hat Stackers Party, complete with trash talking

Not that we haven’t enjoyed some simple pleasures over the last few weeks. There have been lots of board games played. The grown ups watched all of the first season of “House of Cards.” (I highly recommend it! Kevin Spacey is phenomenally bad!) I’ve experimented with cooking some of the venison from my husband’s successful hunt back in November. Several mornings I got to actually sleep in without getting up just because a kid was awake. I scraped a few things off our plates this season so we wouldn’t be too stressed, and it worked, but it’s still, well, excessive. Despite our best efforts, the kids haven’t slept quite as much as they should. Meals have been irregular, and usually consist of at least 50% cookies. The house is a wreck, every room strewn with leftover bits of wrapping paper and ribbon. There are shrink wrapped boxes of science experiments and LEGO kits, shirt boxes with tissue paper still inside, and the tree is dropping needles on top of it all. Christmas just seems tired.

This is why I have to live where there are seasons. I was so excited for this season and now I’m excited for it to be over. I will enjoy winter for a bit longer, hoping for more snow with each weather forecast, and then I’ll be done with that, and ready for spring. I’ll watch for green shoots and blooms and enjoy having the windows open, then I’ll hate putting the air conditioner on but will revel in taking the kids to the pool each day of the heat. I’ll be SO ready for fall to arrive and the kids to go back to school. I NEED this constant change and turnover. I can’t say why, but I do. I need lots of external stimuli to give me constant feedback on the progression of time. And looking back over the past, particularly since my children were born, knowing what season it was has helped me place so many memories on the timeline. I can remember that Girlie was just about two when she said that funny thing that one time when everyone laughed because it was really cold out, lots of snow. And Middle Bird was just about three when he got so dirty that one time and dirtied up everything because he wearing shorts, but long sleeves, so it must have been spring, not far from his late March birthday.

Time and it’s passage is becoming a recurring theme for me, huh?

 


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Standing at the door…

Here it is! The holidays are HERE! It’s not pre-holidays. It’s not almost the holidays. It’s here! Tomorrow I go to the grocery for all the stuff I need to make my part of Thanksgiving dinner. Today I will tackle the house. Toilets, vacuuming, laundry, oh dear God, the laundry. But right at this morning tears are streaming down my face as I contemplate my blessings.Thanksgiving-dinner2-760380

I have avoided the Month of Thankfulness that so many of my friends participate in. I love seeing what my friends are thankful for. Often it’s loved ones, or material blessings, or just living in this wonderful country. Sometimes it’s little things like a good cup of coffee, or a few minutes to sit down. A few weeks ago a friend posted on Facebook about how she couldn’t bring herself to participate because she was conflicted about it all. If she posts that she’s thankful for her wonderful husband, won’t that make a newly widowed friend feel bad? Maybe that’s why I couldn’t post? Or if I post about how thankful I am for my husband’s good job that affords me the chance to live in this house in this neighborhood, will that bum out my friends who are struggling with unemployment and just want keep their home out of foreclosure? I thought about this a lot for a few days. In the end, I decided no. Not, my posts wouldn’t, or shouldn’t make anyone feel bad. Well, probably not. So I didn’t participate. Doesn’t mean I’m not grateful. I’m so thankful from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. I’m grateful for my family, my parents, my brother, my husband, my beautiful children. NOBODY on this planet is more blessed with good people in their lives. My heart could pop. And I’m thankful for the material blessings I enjoy. My home, my warm bed, my stocked pantry, my reliable transportation, even the fabulous coffee maker that just brewed up a pot of go-juice for the afternoon. And so much more. Doesn’t mean my life is perfect, just that I’ll keep my own problems, given the choice.

I’ve written before about how I know this time will pass. Someday someone I love will get sick, or be taken from me without warning. There will be job stress for my husband or myself, I do plan to re-enter the workforce soon. Sometime each of my children will disappoint me with a decision or direction. I’m not unprepared for that, though nobody is ever really prepared. But just like I know exactly WHO I am grateful TO, I know where I’ll get the strength to get through those things, too.

Now I’ve got all these lovely blessings to be thankful and we’re standing in the doorway ready to walk into the holidays. I LOVE the holidays. I’m sure not every year will be as lovely as this one promises to be, but I pray I’m never any less aware of how lovely it all is.

I’ve got to get back to my job today. It’s weird being in this between terms thing. I only had a short break between Summer and Fall, so being out of classes so long is a little unnerving. Might help if that one prof would go ahead and post gradeStill, today I am Mom, plain and simple. Mom who cleans toilets. Mom who does laundry. Mom who prepares for Thanksgiving, a gameday party on Saturday (Go BUCKS!), and Christmas. Good thing I love being Mom.