This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings

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Another moment

img_0878.pngHere we are, another moment I don’t want to forget. As usual, it’s way busier than I imagined, and I don’t know how I’ll slow down enough to imprint the whole thing on my heart and remember the details. Maybe writing a few things down will help. Yeah, I’ve been having that thought for the last two weeks and there’s never been a second to stop and write. This is how I find myself standing at the kitchen counter cooking dinner waiting for the washer to ding, shouting directions to the oldest child who is gathering her school supplies, and wondering how I came to have three children in three schools.

That’s the current situation. I’ve got three in three schools. I knew the day would come, but I thought it would just be one year, it will be two. That’s okay because the opportunity for the middle kid is amazing. He’s not only going to be attending a smaller school with a different pedagogical concept that his teachers are wildly excited about, but he’s going to be going to a school that his sister has NEVER attended. He’s been one step behind her his entire life. This is his first opportunity to do something different. Besides Scouts, and even that she has been involved with, he’s never had this chance.

But three kids in three schools! I knew there would be three schedules to juggle, three school lists to deal with, three locations to manage rides to. What I didn’t count on was the managing of three sets of personalities. Three administrations. Three sets of fellow parents. Three PTAs. Well, two PTAs and one PTSA. Yeah, and I lost my mind and volunteered to be Vice President of the PTSA. Vice President means next year I have to be President. I can do this. Sure, I can. But MAN, that’s another ball to juggle.

And elementary school!? I’m kinda over it. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. The good friends I made when the big kids started, are all moving on to middle school, and I am, too, but there’s one foot still in elementary school because of the littlest Cucksey. He’s got FIVE years to go in elementary school. He deserves the same involvement and emotional commitment the other kids got. It’s just hard to maintain that level of excitement for fourteen years straight.

And this full time job thing? It’s great! It’s amazing! I LOVE what I’m doing, where I work, warts and all. But it is definitely complicating family life. The kids have mostly been troopers. The big kids have spent a lot of time unsupervised and the little guy goes to work with me. The grandparents have taken one or more on many occasions, and we’ve generally just limped along this summer without having to pay for any child care. That’s a blessing for sure. And now that school is starting, I’ve actually secured after-school care for the little guy from one of my very favorite families in the world. It’s gonna be fabulous. Thanks, Ray!

Yeah, this is a moment. I’ve been working full time since July, and things are going fairly well, but it’s controlled chaos. Tomorrow we add school back into the mix. Not just a dash, or a pinch of school. THREE DIFFERENT schools. I don’t know how things are going to turn out. I don’t know if we made the right choice to send the middle kid to Phoenix Middle. I don’t know if I can even keep up with it all. But we’re going to give it a go because that’s what you do, right? Plowing forward with confidence and prayers. That’s all I can do.

I’ve been writing as the kids ate dinner. I put a few more lines in after I tucked in the littlest guy. I cleaned up the kitchen and edited another paragraph. I’ve been working on this while going about the night before back-to-school things all evening. Now it’s nearly midnight and the kids are all quiet. The news is over and the late night comedians are going strong. I will turn out the light shortly and blink before it’s three or four o’clock in the morning, then suddenly the alarm will be going off at six.

This moment is passing before I can even record it. Tomorrow I will have an eighth grader, a seventh grader, and a second grader. Tomorrow will be a busy day at work, and then rushing around gathering children and feeding them, finding out how the first day went. I hope I’ll be able to take a second and breathe it in. If not, at least I’ve got this moment.


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Baseball, cookouts, and parades!

I could keep writing about my job, but you don’t really want to hear any of that, do you? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Nothing new. Nothing to report. I’ll update when there’s something to share.

Instead, let me tell you how awesome our weekend was. Someday when I’m old and my children don’t bring my grandchildren around often enough, when I complain about the poor quality of music on the radio, when I’m just crotchety, THIS will be the weekend I’ll look back on and smile. Memorial Day Weekend 2017 was definitely a high point for this whole family adventure.

Friday was an unexpected day off for me, and a planned vacation day for my husband, so we ran some errands and generally tried to prepare for the weekend. We ended the day with the most delicious steaks on the grill, and gin and tonics on the patio.

Saturday morning I used the leftover ribeyes to make steak and eggs for everyone. Nothing like a massive dose of protein to fuel the troops for the day, right? The middle kid headed off to work on the parade float with his scout troop. We leisurely prepared for the afternoon and evening festivities. The littlest kid had a baseball game to kick off the season, complete with team pictures. Then we spent the evening at a neighbor’s cookout and then sipping beers around their fire pit while the kids from the neighborhood ran around and acted like a pack of kids loose on a summer night.

Sunday we took the dog for her first boarding adventure, then headed up to Cleveland to see the Indians play. We could not have had a better time. The kids were all well behaved, thoroughly enjoyed the game, and even the weather cooperated. At the end, Daddy took the littlest kid for a run around the bases! It’s hard to know which of them was most excited about that. The Indians won, 10-1! GO TRIBE!

Monday the weather was, again, PERFECT, and it’s time for the big Worthington Memorial Day Parade! This is truly one of my very favorite events of the year. Besides just being a wonderful way to remember the fallen heroes who make our cookouts and ballgames possible, I get to enjoy it on my own. Silly? Maybe, but I love it. All three kids and their dad march with scouts, so I get to wander the parade route looking for friends, taking pictures, and enjoying the scene. I love my town, and I love seeing so many different friends come out for the community event. I’m not scared to talk to strangers, either, so I did strike a few of those conversations, too. When it’s over, we meet at the Dairy Queen for ice cream. Can’t beat it!

After the parade, we headed to another favorite neighborhood family’s backyard for yet another cookout.

PhotoGrid_1496176226265Today, I’m back at work. Back to wondering how we’ll figure out the details of the summer. Back to wondering if I’ll have a job past June 30th. Today I’m harassing kids to do chores, thinking about dinner, looking for moments to throw in another load of laundry or empty the dishwasher. This weekend was glorious and I hope I can keep it’s feeling of family connectedness, community belonging, and pride in remembering why our nation is a wonderful place to live. I wish I could just wrap the whole thing up in a box to take out and hold when life gets too crazy. Maybe that’s a little of what I’m doing here.


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A letter to the other Trump supporters

Let me just tell you a few things I’m NOT saying. I’m NOT saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobe, homophobe, or any other kind of phobe/ist (though, many of you are saying you aren’t and just saying it doesn’t make it so). I’m NOT saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a threat to the safety of any American. I’m NOT saying that Hillary was my first choice for president. If you continue reading and you come away believing I’ve said any of that, you are simply wrong and you have not really listened.

That said, there are a few things I want to say that I’m not seeing in the social media conversation. First, I want to validate the fear of my LGBTQ+ friends, parents raising LGBTQ+ kids, minority friends, parents of minorities, and anyone else who feels afraid today. We aren’t afraid of all the Trump supporters. That’s ridiculous. If you aren’t a threat, you don’t need to say it every time someone posts their fear. If you feel the need to show that you aren’t a threat, GREAT. One simple thing you can do to show it is to wear a safety pin. If you don’t know what I’m talking about with the safety pin, here’s some resources from Huffington Post and The New York Daily News.

So what are we afraid of? That tiny percentage of Americans who are simply horrible. We’re afraid of a tiny percentage who think that Donald Trump’s words (and words ARE important) about Muslims, gays, special needs people, women, and immigrants were not just okay, but great. There are Americans who think it’s not just okay to beat up that effeminate middle schooler, but needs to be done. There are Americans who think that those who have less muscular control of their arms or legs should be made fun of. There are Americans who have long wanted to be able to openly call out those with different ethnic backgrounds in their neighborhoods and schools, to harass them until they feel unsafe and leave, to run them off. If my description of these Americans disgusts you, than you might not be one of them. Chances are NONE of you reading this is one of them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Not only do they exist, but they have been empowered, emboldened, and ENDORSED. It may not have been your intention when you voted for him, but it is the result nonetheless.

So all those people who feel fear are absolutely justified in feeling that fear. If you still disagree with me about that one fact, you are probably one of the few still denying that white privilege exists, and frankly, I’m not sure that our discussion can go much further. We’re speaking different languages and since that is such a basic tenet of my beliefs about this country,  I’m hard pressed to find common ground. We can certainly disagree about how much of a problem it is, how to fix it, even how it came about, but surely you can agree that it exists.

There are dozens of reports today, and over the last few days, about why that fear is justified. There are middle schoolers chanting hateful things at ethnic minorities, graffiti with obvious hate messages, people beat up for appearing to belong to the LGBTQ+ community, women harassed on public transportation. Is there an actual increase in these incidents, or is it just being reported on more often? I don’t know, and really it doesn’t matter. It’s happening. The fear IS justified.

I’m not going to hash out the issues that made me choose to vote for Clinton over Trump. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to assume that most of you who voted for Trump made your decision carefully, perhaps prayerfully, and simply chose different legitimate priorities. Clearly we disagree, but Trump has won the election fair and square, so we have to move from there. I consider America’s endorsement of Trump to be a challenge, and I am up to it. I have the beginnings of a plan. Would you like to know what it is? I  bet we can find common ground there.

wp-1478965011446.jpgFirst, I’m going to show all the love I can. On Wednesday morning, when my children were sad and disappointed, I instructed each one of them to dig deep within themselves and find all the extra kindness and love they could muster and show it to everyone they came across. I want us all to double our efforts in that area every single day. If hate and fear have been endorsed and even ONE person feels more comfortable spreading that, than I want to be part of those who will smother that hate everywhere it springs up. The news will cover the hate faster than the love, so we’ll have to patient and steady and back each other up with that love, but I want to be part of that movement. I’ll wear a safety pin every day as an outward sign. I will continue to teach my children that this is the most important thing they can do, and that God demands it of us.


Second, I will try to hear the rest of you. You Trump supporters who are angry at the liberal reaction to this election, if you can express your feelings without anger, I want to hear why you chose him. I will try to squash my own confirmation bias and read even-handed pieces from reliable, authoritative, non-biased sources about the issues you find most important. I have several articles in the queue already, and Hillbilly Elegy is already ordered and on its way to me. I will engage in rational discussion with anyone who is willing about which issues should be most important, how they should be handled, and what the consequences might be of those solutions.

Lastly, I will not endorse or be part of protests that involve shouting “Not my president.” I will not threaten to move to Canada. I will not feed the hatred of “the other side.” I will give Trump the respect of the office he was legitimately elected to. I will likely disagree with MANY of the decisions he will make as president, but I will find productive ways to express that. I will maintain my faith in the democratic system, and work harder within it to effect the change I believe in.




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All American Saturday

20160611_183154-1.jpgGood heavens, we are blessed. I worked this morning, so I missed some excitement. The middle kid had a double header, and he played fabulously. YAY for baseball! A homerun, to RBIs, a slide into home, and he was awarded the game ball. The girl had a softball game and she also played well. It was hot and everyone kept their chin up and pulled through.

When I finished work at one, I hustled over to the end of the boy’s game in time to hear the coach award him the game ball. We gathered the family for a trip out for ice cream because you HAVE to celebrate that kind of game, right?

Then home to watch these rascals soak each other with squirt guns. There was some bickering and general whining, but still a good time. Then we cooked hotdogs and brats on the grill for dinner. Now I’m watching these kids work on throwing and catching in the back yard.

FOR REAL? This is my life? I’m this lucky? This privileged? Yeah. I am. Now, what am I going to teach my children? How am I going to give them the empathy I want them to share with the world? For now, I’m enjoying watching them thrive in this privilege, but please never let them  forget that it IS privilege! Never let ME forget!




Sharing the News

On Sunday, I participated in a hymnfest at my church.  It was a fundraiser for the Lutheran Music Program and it’s major function, Lutheran Summer Music Academy.  It was a moving experience and I wanted to tell you all about it, but I didn’t get to it yesterday morning.

I also wanted to talk to you about my Monday weigh-in for WW.  I gained a little.  I have mixed feelings.  I had a lot to say about all that, but I didn’t get to it yesterday morning.

When I got back to my computer yesterday afternoon, I found my Facebook newsfeed filled with references to something awful in Boston.  There were all sorts of calls for prayers and questions about what’s wrong with people.  I had to turn on the TV and get the quickest updates on CNN.  Suddenly my feelings about worship and music, or my weight loss struggles, all seemed petty and insignificant.

Now, I’m not going to write about my feelings about the events in Boston themselves.  There are plenty of columnists, commentators, and bloggers out there spouting about all of that,  They all seem to be saying pretty much the same thing and most of it, I have no issue with.  Most of it involves more eloquent versions of what my Facebook filled up with in the hours after.  “Why would someone do this?”  “People are messed up.”  “Look for the helpers.” (Thank you, Mr. Rogers.)  “Remember the acts of kindness.”  “Here are the latest facts.”

What I want to write about is my children and how they are processing this and how I help them.  I’m going to say things here that lots of people with disagree with.  I’m going to handle this in a way that many of their peers’ parents will not like.  I’m going to tell and show them things that I will be criticized for.  I’m okay with that, and I believe they will be better off for it.  So, you’ve been warned that we may disagree.  I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this, both in support and in criticism, provided it’s respectful, but the comments in this blog are moderated, just so you know, though I have only once not approved a comment and it was so long and nonsensical I don’t know what they were talking about.

Back to getting the news of what happened.  It was after school.  The older children were supposed to be doing homework, but were passing back and forth through the kitchen alternately asking for snacks and drinks in an attempt to postpone the work.  The little one was picking up on their requests and echoing them.  This is the time of day I usually want to crawl under a rock, or the table, but I gave everyone something to eat, something to drink, one more bite, sip, question.  Okay, everyone OUT of my kitchen!  Finally it was a bit quieter and I opened up the Chromebook to check on the Internet World.  I saw my Facebook feed and turned on the TV.  I watched in horror as they showed the video they had over and over, received new video and added it.  Thankfully, CNN was respectful and never showed any images that were too gory, but there was no doubt that lots of people had been hurt and badly.  I got teary, I re-experienced some of the feelings of 9-11.  I prayed.  I folded another load of laundry.  After all, life goes on here.  But the TV stayed on.

DSC_0136After a while, the kids finished their homework and began making noise that I found disturbing and I yelled at them to knock it off.  Middle Bird and Baby Bird went out into the backyard to play baseball, but they still need some level of supervision, so I watched them, and several times corrected them.  At some point both older kids were in the kitchen and stopped to look at the TV.  This is the part I know some of you will disagree with.  I did not turn off the TV.  I did not choose to change my preferred method of receiving my news.  I let them see it, as it was happening.  They asked me what was going on, and I told them all that we knew at the time.  There had been some explosions in Boston around the finish line of the marathon, that a couple people had died and more had been injured.  They said, “wow” and ran outside, laughing and carrying on as if life were normal.  Because life IS normal for them.

Later when I called them to dinner, the news was still on, and they got a few more details, but they didn’t have many questions and I felt no need to have any kind of “discussion” with them at the time.  They got a bit more of an idea of how serious it all was when the president spoke, but then, I have the news on a lot and the president speaks a lot, so they weren’t terribly alarmed.

Meanwhile, I read my Facebook feed and found more and more parents agonizing about how to tell their children about “today.”  Now, don’t misunderstand.  These are mostly parents who I have a great deal of respect for, and in many cases even try to model.  These are parents who I know to be grounded and honest, parents who work very hard to be good parents and raise good, well-rounded citizens who will make the world a better place.  I am not here to criticize their parenting, just to point out how I am making different choices.  I read over and over about how they were shielding their children from the day’s events to protect them and their innocence.  Many of them believe that their children are too young (and some are), or too fragile, or too emotionally vulnerable, to know about the details of the day.  I do not tell them how much I disagree with this particular choice.  They get to make it, and it is emotional, and engaging them on Facebook can never be productive at a time like this.  But I do disagree, in most cases.  I think our kids, my kids anyway, are not so innocent as we’d want them to be.  I think a healthy eight-year-old can handle this.  I think my kids can handle this.  I think my kids have to handle this.

This morning I woke them as usual and came downstairs to turn on the TV and get breakfast on the table.  The older two came down and started eating.  As I checked my email with my back to the table I heard the Middle Bird say, “Oh, come ON!  It happened yesterday!  It’s not even news anymore, get over it.”  That’s when I knew it was time for me to interject some parental spouting.  I explained that it IS news.  It’s the biggest news story in the country right now.  And you will be hearing about it for days, weeks, even years.  It’s big news because it happened here.  Yes, there are places where this stuff happens every day and the lives lost there are no less important, but that news has lost it’s shock.  This happened here.  In our country.  Yes, Worthington, Ohio is a long way from Boston, but it’s our country.  It didn’t happen in Boston because it’s Boston, or because there’s some war in Boston that isn’t here.  It could just as easily have happened at the Capital City Half Marathon, or the Worthington Memorial Day Parade, where my daughter and I marched with her Brownie Troop last year.  I told them all this.  They were chastened for making light of it.  I told them that one of the dead was an eight-year-old boy.  They got it.

Four generations of firstborn daughters

Four generations of firstborn daughters

My grandmother died when these kids were three and four.  My husband and I discussed at length whether they would be taken to the funeral, and though his initial feeling was that there was no good to come of taking them, I eventually convinced him that there was.  I am so glad I did.  First of all, they grieved.  They knew their Great Grandma.  They had a relationship with her.  They knew a bit about MY relationship with her, and they understood that she was their grandma’s mommy.  I believed, and even found research to back me, that their grief and feelings needed to be acknowledged, not just through talking about it, but by allowing them to attend the funeral and be with all the other people who grieved.  I believe that we did the right thing, that we allowed them to have an early understanding that death is a natural part of life and that everyone will experience it.  But more than that, because of my faith, I allowed them to see the joy in the middle of the sadness.  I showed them that even while we cry because we won’t be with Great Grandma anymore, we are Easter people and we rejoice in knowing that she is with her Father in Heaven, and we will join her someday.  I am blessed to have this faith.  I am blessed to share it with my children.  I wish it for everyone I know.  It’s the same logic I used when Grandma died that I use today to share the news of Boston’s bombings.  And since my kids have the healthiest attitudes about death of any kids I know, I think my logic is sound.

If I did not have this faith, or want to share it with my children, I would handle the news today in much the same way.  My opinion of their ability to take this in and process it would not be changed.  But how very lucky I am to be able to tell them that Jesus weeps for the dead and injured, and rejoices for the many acts of faith and kindness shown by “the helpers.”  I don’t have to just say, “That’s how it is.”  Well, that IS how it is.  This IS the world we live in.  There IS evil in the world.  But God is in the world, too.  I thank you, Lord, for my faith.  May my words and actions bring light to others who might share that faith.  Let my children see me grieve and process this.  Let me be their model and their guide.  For now, the TV will stay on in my kitchen.


Without preparation, I heard

Photo from

Photo from

When I found out that Elie Wiesel was to speak at Kent, and that as a student, I could get a free ticket, I did not hesitate to claim my ticket and spring for one more at just $20.  A very reasonable price for the opportunity to see such an incredible figure.  Holocaust survivor, writer, humanitarian, teacher, all around amazing man.  I had grand plans to reread Night, which I haven’t read since high school, and look up more of his work.  I wanted to be prepared to see him.  To remind myself of his talents in storytelling and presenting a spiritual message in a physical story.  Yeah, big plans that never happened.  And for once, I’m glad I didn’t get around to my big plans.

I am certain that Professor Wiesel has given pretty much the exact same talk many times.  He was introduced by the president of the university and we could all hear him clearly and watch as his words scrolled under his picture on the two giant screens, closed caption style.  Then when the professor started to speak, my heart sunk.  I could barely hear him, and I couldn’t understand him at all.  I read the scroll of his words, but clearly the person imputing his words was having trouble, too, so it was delayed and not even close to verbatim.  But the place was silent.  Everyone in the place, more than 5000 people, strained to hear him.  We sat up straight, tilted our heads, and struggled to drink in the message he was delivering.  There was a collective response to the difficulty in hearing him that surprised me.  We, as a group, all seemed to lean in, to wish the microphone or sound engineer to adjust it so we could hear better.  We physically wished to hear him.  It was moving before we even found ourselves understanding him.

But we managed to follow his talk.  Between lip reading and the slightly delayed scroll of paraphrase, we managed to follow the first several minutes of what he came to tell us.  He talked about April 11, 1945.  He talked about the liberation of Buchenwald and how they didn’t know what to do.  The Americans showed up and said, “Hey, you’re free!”  And the Jews in the camp just looked at each other in confusion.  What is this “free?”  They’d very nearly lost the ability to even comprehend that concept.  Can you IMAGINE?  So, they prayed the prayer of the dead.  Together, at the same time, just began just praying for the dead.  We took this in.

He talked about education.  His, his oppressors, in general.  He asked how could this happen.  How COULD this happen?  It wasn’t a lack of education.  These people had fancy degrees from the best schools.  They WERE educated.  And, yet, this happened.  These things happened.  And if we as a civilization get some sort of collective Alzheimer’s disease,  it can happen again.  It will happen again.

So, he tells us these things, and by now the moderator and the sound engineers have offered him a handheld microphone, which he accepted to great applause from the audience.  He tells us all this and we listen, rapt in our attempts to hear every word.  Then he starts to talk about hope.  How can there be hope after an experience like the one he had at the hands of the Nazis?  How can hope and faith survive after such things have happened, perpetrated by the some of the best educated in the world at the time?  How can there be hope for the future.  His answer was so simple, so basic, so wonderful.  It amounts to this: nobody can take the hope from anyone else, ever.  If we see no hope, we must invent it.  We must invent reasons to hope, or just hope itself.  It is not for him, or anyone else to TAKE another’s hope.

He talked more about faith, and tradition.  He has, obviously, a very Jewish perspective on these things, but that perspective was not lost on this Christian.  He talked about how his faith has been tested and he has arrived at a conclusion.  That is that sometimes it does not matter that you question your faith.  Faith is more than “I believe.”  He is unable to turn his back on the faith of his parents and grandparents because of what they believed and because of how they lived it.  It would not be right for him to deny THEIR faith, their traditions.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter a few months ago.  She was in tears because she had worked herself into a tizzy because she found herself questioning her own belief in God.  I held her and assured her that it is absolutely okay to question.  God does not expect an eight-year-old girl to understand and accept the answers that generation after generation of grown ups have devoted their lives to figuring out.  To not doubt is to not really value the faith you have, I think.  I assured her that it is enough, at eight years old to simply accept my faith and that I tell her it is true, and that God will never, ever turn His back on her for her doubts.  (I know that many of you will disagree with me on this theologically and philosophically, and I will be happy to discuss it in more depth later if there is interest, both from a religious and a parenting view)

There was so much more that he said about hope, over an over that word, “hope.”  I can’t even take it all in.  I will dig out my paperback copy of Night.  I have reserved several other of his works at my local library already.  I left last night wanting to soak him up and immerse myself in his message of hope and wisdom, and by extension, of love and forgiveness.  He strengthened my faith, and I wanted more of that.  I am glad I didn’t read more before last night.  I might have been more familiar with the things he said, as I’m sure he has said them all before many times.  But it wouldn’t have filled me in the same way.  It wouldn’t have been the same breathtaking experience.  I don’t think I could have heard him, really heard him, with the same full meaning.