This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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#NaBloPoMo experiment FAIL! And other December reflections.

Yeah, I tried the post-a-day project for November pushed by BlogHer called NaBloPoMo. I tried, I really did. I failed. Spectacularly, I think. And as any good scientist will tell you, a failed experiment is still very valuable. I leaned some important things. First, I have NO BUSINESS trying to write a post every day. It’s obnoxious to me, to my family, to my readers (those who stayed), and just generally silly. I just don’t have that much interesting to say and that’s okay. It was never the intent of this blog to document in excruciating detail the operation that is running this house and raising this family and trying to record SOMETHING every single day just makes the things I do post feel forced, or boring, or whatever. I mean this blog to record our lives as my kids grow up, that’s true, but no more than any generation before the blog, I don’t have to remember everything, and it’s okay for some days to just pass in anonymous blurs. If I try the experiment again (and at the moment it’s not looking likely), I’d choose some kind of theme and just stick to that. Post a description of a single moment of each day, or one thing I’m thankful for each day (though, I have issues with that I wrote about here), or a genealogy tidbit, or maybe just a fashion question each day. Anyway, the open “write something” thing just didn’t work for me.

Second, I learned that a few folks WILL check in everyday if I write everyday. Not a huge following, but a few folks will read whatever I write and I appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

And lastly, I need to let things brew a while before I try to write about them. With the possible exception of the lists of things I want my children to learn and not learn from me, and maybe the Thanksgiving Eve poem, I don’t think I wrote anything of much value during the challenge. I’m not saying that lots of my posts before the challenge were super excellent, but I’m at least a little proud of some of them. Not so much during the challenge. As one regular reader told me recently, I’m never gonna win a Pulitzer, but still, it should be at least a little interesting.

Moving on from the NaBloPoMo, IT’S THE HOLIDAYS! December slipped up on me in the same way it does every year. Suddenly, it was Thanksgiving and BAM! time to put up the tree, shop, bake, decorate, fill up the calendar, blah, blah, blah. And then I blinked and December was sliding by in a hurry and it feels like I’ve been getting ready for the holidays for weeks on end and they’re almost over. I suppose part of it is because of the tree.

Ah, the tree. Maybe you remember when I wrote a completely self indulgent, lengthy but loving, post about MY Christmas tree last year. My tree means a lot to me. I invest a lot of emotional energy in that tree each year. I attach a lot, maybe too much, emotion and Christmas spirit to my tree. In short, I REALLY love my tree.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.21.29.jpg.jpegWe put our tree up as usual this year, purchasing it on the first Saturday in December, which was a little late this year, December 7th. We declined the vendor’s offer to put a fresh cut on the trunk, took it home and cut six inches off the bottom to make it just the right height. The tree seemed unstable when we got it in the usual stand, so thinking that the 15 year old stand had just seen better days, we used another stand we happened to have on hand. There was a weird trunk split about a third of the way down that caused the center of gravity to be slightly off, but carefully secured in the stand, everything seemed normal and stable. Off I went on my annual light extravaganza! I strung some SIXTEEN strands of light on that sucker, including an addition this year of three strands of C4 sized LED Phillips Warm White 60 count lights. I can’t afford to make the switch to LED in one leap, but I think the colors have come a long way and I thought I’d add some depth to the tree by adding some of the larger lights. It was magical. The camera doesn’t really capture the complete beauty, but it was as pretty a tree as I’d ever had. Once again, I felt like I’d captured some magic for my family and put it on display in the living room.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.27.03.jpg.jpegWe went on with the month of December and all it’s craziness. The second week of December is the last week of preschool, including the funny, silly program of preschoolers singing the same funny songs in all their sweet, frilly glory. There really isn’t anything cuter, unless it’s the one who doesn’t want to sing rubbing his belly. Sorry I didn’t get a better picture.

I worked my butt off on Friday to FINALLY get all the decorating remnants cleaned up and everything dusted and vacuumed and ready for company and parties over the weekend. I was thrilled to have gotten it all done on Friday evening, including haircuts for everyone! Saturday came and we packed the kids off to the grandparents and headed off to not one, but TWO parties with friends, and then even had dinner together with completely adult conversation before making it home for a decent bedtime on Saturday night.

We came home to a dark house and since we didn’t plan to stay up, we didn’t light the tree, or even wander through the front room on the way up to bed. The husband was snoring pretty quickly, but I wanted just one more cookie (that will teach me) so I wandered downstairs and just happened to glance into the dark living room on my way up the stairs.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.41.40.jpg.jpegwpid-20141214_151118.jpgThat’s when my heart sank. There it was, like a big fat dead body in on the living room carpet. My beautiful, wonderful, much loved tree had just dropped while we were out. Fell, fainted, collapsed, prostrated itself, DOWN! I woke the husband, who calls me hysterical when he tells the story. I maintain that I was simply upset, but I can see how it might have LOOKED like I was hysterical. There was glass EVERYWHERE. I was certain that every ornament I’d held dear was broken, that they were all gone. As it turned out there were only a few precious ones lost, most of the broken ornaments were just cheap glass ones I’d picked up over the years to fill it up. The wedding gift egg was the most precious and I might be able to glue it. Still, a sad loss.

But we have to go on, right? Christmas is still coming! When I stopped crying and got a good night’s sleep, we examined the tree and decided it was not salvageable. It was completely dried out. I thought I’d kept it watered enough, but the water had been low, so maybe I didn’t add enough. Maybe it had just been cut too long ago. Whatever the cause, the needles were dropping like it was mid-January and I couldn’t see rehanging my most loved ornaments on this traitor tree. I also couldn’t see buying a new real tree, unstringing the stupid amount of lights I like, and restringing them on the new one. The final solution was to get that awful, evil tree out of my house, and borrow an extra little tabletop model that Mom and Dad had in the basement. It isn’t ideal, but it works. I rode a roller coaster of emotions as I took out the old tree, but I could feel my Christmas spirit rebuilding as I decorated this little dear tree. In years to come, I’m sure my children will remember the “Year of The Tiny Tree” and I hope it’s a happy memory, though it will always be bittersweet to me.

So, the upshot of the whole story is that I have been getting READY for Christmas forever. And now it feels like BAM, it’s almost over. It isn’t, but I know how fast these next two weeks will fly by. We will have “Christmas” with two different sections of the family this weekend and a dinner for a nephew graduating from college (Congrats, Alec!). Plus a bonus piano recital! And then the kids will be out of school next week. Thankfully, their father is off all week between Christmas and New Year’s this year. I look forward to some quite family time, though we’ll probably spend most of it cleaning out the basement and preparing to have friends over for New Year’s Eve.

Through all, I just want to remember that life is so good, I am so blessed.

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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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Grandparents

Another month has slipped by with nothing to show for it here. It was a rough month, I guess.  I’ve been working on this entry for a while and it really doesn’t feel finished. Still, it’s time to let it go, to put it up. Just a few things I feel like sharing.

I lost my last grandparent on October 2. On my wedding day, in 2001, all four of my grandparents, and two of my husband’s, were in attendance. They all danced at our wedding, and we felt so blessed to have them there. Instead of throwing the bouquet, I gave it to the set of grandparents married the longest, just short of 60 years at the time.

They are all gone now. But I know a couple things about them that need to be shared. They were flawed, quirky, brilliant, strong people, and you should know a few other things.

  • They loved us. All of them, all of us. Nobody, ever, in the history of grandchildren has been more cherished and loved than the 30 some grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even one great great grandchild of these grandparents. Loved so deeply that their example will live long after their deaths.
  • They loved each other. My husband’s grandfather called her Babe. It was sweet and silly and gave me goosebumps. He held her hand whenever he could. My paternal grandfather was so fiercely protective of my grandmother it left an impression on everyone who knew them. And my maternal grandfather, the last to leave us, spoke regularly in his final weeks of just wanting to dance again with Grandma.
  • They were people of enormous faith. My grandparents-in-law spent most of their married life working in the Methodist church in their community. Their funerals were held there. All four of my own grandparents were members of the Emanuel Lutheran in Marion, Ohio. All their children were baptised there, as was I, and all four funerals were held there. At each of their funerals we sang their favorite hymns and praised God for the gift of their lives, and commended their souls to the arms of Jesus. Each time, I was struck as they wheeled out the casket that it was the last time they’d leave the church.

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These are my maternal grandparents. Seems like all the pictures I have of them together are like this. He is always looking at her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15340667190_a6fbf0200e_oI love this picture of my paternal grandmother, and the inscription on the back. I believe it’s the picture Grandpa carried with him to the South Pacific in WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I got into a discussion on Facebook about how to make the holidays a little better after losing a loved one. Some people are of the mind that a change is needed, something different, to keep from getting “stuck in sad.” I know where they’re coming from, I understand completely. I just don’t agree. For me, it’s really important that our Thanksgiving and Christmas will be pretty much the same as ever. There will be an absence, for sure, but we’ll tackle the new reality. My grandparents haven’t hosted these holidays for a long time, so it’s easy to carry on. We’ll still gather at my parents’ home for Christmas. There will still be thirty people or so gathered. We’ll still tell the same stories, sing the same songs, and yell at the same kids. It won’t always be that way. There will certainly continue to be an evolution to these holidays, but they won’t change because we lost one of the senior members of our family. The circle of life (Yes, I did just see the Lion King on stage and it was fabulous) will keep going. We’ll laugh and remember them. We’ll tell stories and poke fun. They were wonderful people, all of them, but they had short comings and flaws, too.

Someday we’ll have to gather somewhere else, and kids growing up and having their own families will change the make up of the group that can gather. Still, I hope that my family, or some portion of it, will always continue to gather on these holidays. We are so lucky to be such a bunch of loving, crazy, nutcases! Holidays have not been a place for folks to fight or ignore each other in my family. We’re as nutty and dysfunctional as the next family, but we love being together. What a gift! Thank you, God for my family!

 

Thanksgiving 2011

The crowd that gathered for Thanksgiving, 2011.

 

And if you’d like to see it, here’s the wonderful video my uncle made for Grandpa’s memorial. I think he did an excellent job.

 

 

 

 


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Some Thoughts On Shopping

We’re hurdling headlong into the holidays, and, man, do I have stuff to say! Right!? I mean, I know all you out there who actually know me in real life (no comments about how nobody else is reading, please) are just shocked that I have opinions on stuff, AND that I’m willing to actually speak them out loud. Try to settle down. I’ll wait while you allow this foreign concept of Bird with opinions to sink in. HA! I crack myself up.

I’m reading my Facebook feed and there’s feed and there’s just so much to have opinions about! And some of it I might even be right about. Though (and this part might actually shock you) I am willing to admit that I might be wrong. Probably not, and you’ll have to convince me, but maybe, so go ahead and tell me if you think I am. Let’s just keep it off Facebook. That seems smart these days, no?

I have opinions on some stuff that just don’t amount to much. I mean, I’m not going to try to convince you one way or another here. Just spout. Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. I keep seeing this stuff on my feed. No, I don’t have a problem with these ideas, but it just all seems so self-righteous to post them on your wall. And I know that the folks whose walls I swiped them from are good people who mean well. I know that they feel these things strongly and truly feel that they are helping to make our country a better place by reposting these. And I also know, or hope I’m right, that they will follow through and actually buy local when they can and stay out of retail on Thanksgiving day. This isn’t about an opportunity to judge. But I can’t do it. I can’t just post it and not comment at length. I’ll put them here instead and ramble for a while about the ideas they represent, okay?

1455046_10151990479314255_799574030_n1379721_310997639040818_1215215804_nWAR ON THANKSGIVING?  Really? I’m pretty sure the retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving are not trying to eliminate this holiday. Rather, they NEED there to be a Thanksgiving to mark the all out craziness that is the “holiday shopping season.” It’s true that they didn’t use to open their doors on Thanksgiving. It’s true that the season used to begin the day AFTER Thanksgiving, but I’ll get to the Black Friday thing in a minute. For now, let’s just unpack the whole open on Thanksgiving thing. So, now that shopping on Thanksgiving IS a thing, now that millions of dollars will be changing hands that day, now that the shoppers are there, you really want more retailers to look at that money and just say no. You want them to just turn down their share of those dollars because it’s the right thing to do? Yes, you say, that’s exactly it. Well, okay, fine. I am totally on board with believing in people to do the right thing for the right reason, even if it costs them financially. It’s sort of like non-compulsory charitable giving. We can count on people to do the right thing, so we don’t need use tax dollars to pay for quite so many of the things some people need because we can count on people and private organizations to do the right thing for the right reasons, right? Hmm. Seems like we’ve disagreed on that before.

1375056_10153305787625538_5380466_nThen there’s this one. It’s not a bad idea. I have no beef with the idea of buying locally. In fact, I think it’s great if my local businesses get some business out of it. There’s a wonderful new bakery in downtown Worthington and you should totally check them out. Sassafras Bakery has gotten rave revues and I hope it thrives, but come on. A pie is like, $30. I don’t think that’s over priced for what you get. After all, someone lovingly prepared this pie from fine fresh ingredients just for you. I’ll bet it’s the best pie you can find in town. But if I decide to find money in the budget for pie that my aunt didn’t make, I’m gonna pick up one from the Kroger bakery for $8. Will it be as good? Probably not, but I’ll still have another $22 to spend on the boxed cereal and non-organic milk. Do I WANT to that local bakery to do well? Hell yeah. (At least a little bit because it’s in the building that used to hold the stationery shop where I ordered my wedding invitations, but I’m sometimes a bit irrational like that.) I want them to thrive. I hope they pay their employees well. I hope people feel all that wonderful, homey, community love every time they walk in the door. I’m thinking I need to stop by for a cookie and a cup of coffee today. (I have some time since the Baby Bird is going to Grandma’s.) But I can’t local businesses are very often much more expensive. Not because they want to be, but because of the economic issues involved. I get that. It’s complicated, but that doesn’t mean I have more disposable income. As for gifts? Yeah, I’ll likely look for smaller (possibly higher priced) items. I would rather give a lovely pair of handknitted gloves for the same price as a whole set of mass produced winter gear. But I can’t be guilted into not buying the more reasonably priced fleece gloves for my three kids because I would go broke buying them ALL handknits and meanwhile their hands are cold.

And then there’s the whole chaos of Black Friday. I know some of you love it. Some of you will set your alarm clocks for the middle of the night and then you’ll go out in your pajamas and delight in the whirlwind race of elbows and ramming shopping carts to get the two 60″ TVs that are for sale for $50. But it just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Not because I don’t like to shop. I do. It may be my most favorite past time. But not that day. The joy has been completely sucked out of it for me that day. I like to browse, to pick things up, to imagine buying it, owning it or giving it, to picture using it or how I might wrap it. I love scanning the entire department for the item that will catch my attention and call me to further investigate. I like to imagine the person receiving the item. I need to do all that to make a purchase decision. On Black Friday, none of that is possible. I don’t mind if it’s busy. I love feeling like I’m sharing all that experience with lots of other folks out because they have loved ones to buy for. I just don’t want to be knocked down at any point in the process. I don’t want to purchase anything because the sale will run out in eight seconds or because if I don’t the lady behind me will get it and that ain’t right because I got up earlier and I deserve it and GET OUT OF MY WAY!

I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving because I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t ever want to forget for one second how lucky I am. Not only will I be gathered with my family in a warm, safe place, but there will be more food than we know what to do with. We will all of us eat until it gets boring. It will be completely unnecessary to eat the food we will consume that day. Totally unhealthy, and perhaps even unsafe. Some of us will drink a little too much. No one will worry too much about where we will sleep that night. We will all enjoy the luxury of our own pompous idea that we somehow need all the excess of that celebration. That will keep me way too busy to bother with shopping on Thanksgiving. My children will never wonder if mom is going shopping on the fourth Thursday of November and hopefully, it will never occur to them to go. The day after we will look for something light to eat, and revel in the bonus day off that Daddy gets. We’ll probably have some other family obligation to see to. We will stay as far away from retailers as possible because shopping just isn’t fun that day. Except, wait, that’s not true. We will have a party on Saturday, so I will have to go to the grocery on Black Friday. Let’s hope Kroger isn’t giving away iPods or selling too many super cheap TVs. For those two days we won’t participate in the chaos. If other folks do, well, than they do. I’m grateful none of my loved ones work in retail these days, but if they did and had to miss Thanksgiving, we’d probably celebrate around their schedule in some way and remember to mention their employment in our prayers of thanksgiving.

I’ve also got opinions of UGGs and the revelation that they are made of sheep skin (uh, okay), engineering toys for girls, the governor of Oklahoma, the mayor of Toronto, and a whole bunch of other political tidbits. I guess none of them are all that astounding, though. I better post this for now. Stay tuned for a general life update in then next day or two.