Your life, your signature…

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“Despite overall similarities, each nest identifies it’s maker as surely as an artist’s signature”
Maryjo Koch

 Mommy… Did you know that your nest bears your signature?
When you stand back, what do you see?
I remember the days when my children were small.
My girlfriend would come over with her little battalion of boys
and I would make a pile of french toast.

The children would dress up and run barefoot in the grass.
They would make mud balls in the puddles.
There was laughter.
It wasn’t always neat, but it was always pretty.
It wasn’t expensive, but it was enough.
My nest was full of life.

What does your nest say about your life?
Is there music?
Does a candle flicker, adding a glow to your kitchen?
Have you taken your little one out to plant a seed?
Is there laughter?
Do you have time to drink it in?
Do you find yourself crying tears that flow from a pool of gratitude and love?

Who cares if it gets a little messy, just make sure it’s pretty.
Blanket forts are pretty.
Children in footy pajamas, surrounded by piles of books —
That’s pretty.
The mess of life —
That’s neat.

Or is the place in front of the television,
or the iPad in the lap,
or the phone in the hand — is that stuff of your day?
They will remember
and may become too dull to care.
Don’t allow entertainment to smother the life and creativity out of your children.

Take your little one out to watch the hopping robins tug worms out of the soft ground.
Take them out to pick daffodils and teach them to rub the soft petals on their cheeks.
Help them find the tiny buds that line the branches of spring.
Light a candle and use the fancy tea cups.
Write your signature with flare.
Today won’t come again.

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Maryjo Koch, Bird Egg Feather Nest,
via Meditations for Mothers, Elisa Morgan
Photo credit: Julie Falk 

The nose pickers

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By the time fourth period rolls around, it’s going on 2:00 and the 4-6 year old children are tired. When I come in, I know I have about 15 minutes to teach the most important parts of my lesson before I start losing them to the play things that surround us in the room. Fortunately, my theatrics are good and the children are enthusiastic. We learn about birds, their homes and their habits. The children sit up on their feet, in tiny blue chairs, and prop their elbows up on the octagonal table that they surround. They are fabulous. At this point in the day, all the hair is marvelously messy — bows are askew and many shoes are untied. They stare at me, wide eyed, as I talk about the size of a hummingbird egg or where an eagle makes it’s nest. The children gasp audibly as they imagine that the woodpecker can actually eat a frog and the red tailed hawk can swoop down and pick up a field mouse with it’s strong talons.

It’s a sweet time… well… except for one thing — and can I just be up front here?
They pick their noses.
They pick. their. noses.
And when I ask them if they need a tissue, they sweetly look up at me and say no.
When I suggestively hand them a tissue- they daintily hold it in one hand, while they pick with the other.
When I whisper to them discreetly, “Please use your tissue — don’t pick your nose,” then, one little darling in particular, will turn her head and bend down a bit in order that she may pick in private.

This drives me to distraction and it’s terribly hard to continue with my lesson whilst suffering through the inner squirm. Since I only have a very short time, for the sake of whatever children are not picking, I have to continue teaching, in spite of whoever is picking.

We always listen to the sound of the bird and then we scroll through bird pictures on my iPad.

Then comes the question — and it always comes.

“Can I swipe it?” And a little finger comes for my iPad.

Only the wisest…

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There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.

— Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865-1946

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Quote taken from Jan Karon’s, Patches of Godlight
Photo Credit: Little Pink Monster

A tufted titmouse good morning to you…

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There is a small wooden box full of seed that sits on the narrow brick ledge just outside my window. This little guy likes to hop down inside the box to eat. He frequently pops his head up to keep an eye out for predators. He is not a bit afraid as he sees me get up from my chair or reach for things so very near him. He makes me smile.

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The Tufted Titmouse

“A little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse is common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders. The large black eyes, small, round bill, and brushy crest gives these birds a quiet but eager expression that matches the way they flit through canopies, hang from twig-ends, and drop in to bird feeders. When a titmouse finds a large seed, you’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill.

Tufted Titmice hoard food in fall and winter, a behavior they share with many of their relatives, including the chickadees and tits. Titmice take advantage of a bird feeder’s bounty by storing many of the seeds they get. Usually, the storage sites are within 130 feet of the feeder. The birds take only one seed per trip and usually shell the seeds before hiding them.

Tufted Titmice nest in tree holes (and nest boxes), but they can’t excavate their own nest cavities. Instead, they use natural holes and cavities left by woodpeckers. These species’ dependence on dead wood for their homes is one reason why it’s important to allow dead trees to remain in forests rather than cutting them down.

Tufted Titmice often line the inner cup of their nest with hair, sometimes plucked directly from living animals. The list of hair types identified from old nests includes raccoons, opossums, mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, livestock, pets, and even humans.

The oldest known wild Tufted Titmouse lived to be 13 years 3 months old.”

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/tufted_titmouse/lifehistory

Birds Of A Feather

Because it’s the little things that carry the weight of meaning…

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My bus arrived on time in spite of the foul weather. I shook my umbrella, climbed the steps, and headed straight for the empty seat beside Marble Lady. I call her that now because last week she cleaned her purse during our morning commute and we discussed the small green marble she discovered in its zippered pocket. She’d found the marble in her yard, dropped it into her purse thinking it may have once belonged to her now adult son, and thought no more about it until she came across it that day on the bus. After we talked, she realized her sentimental feelings attached to it and instead of getting rid of the marble, she kept it.

This morning she faced the window when I boarded the bus. As I sat down she turned to give a “good morning” nod to whoever it was beside her. Seeing me, she…

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Crawling out of bed tired

Lately, the little things don’t look like backyard adventures.
They look more like shopping for dress pants and cheap ties that might fit the boy for two weeks,
and practices and performances,
and algebra lessons,
and end of semester field trips,
and birthday celebrations,
and meetings,
and big decisions for next year.

The little things look like begging sorry to my honey for leaving bagel crumbs on the  kitchen counter as I go flying out the door.
Looks like forgetting what I came for
and coming back for what I forgot.

Looks like living in the country means we can’t run home and throw in a load.
Looks like we’re getting things halfway done and digging through piles for socks,
Looks like drinking lots of coffee and crawling out of bed tired.
Looks like not finishing anything.

Looks like wondering how other people get all this stuff right,
and then remembering that I’m almost 50 and
most certainly beyond such penchants to compare.
It also looks, conversely and hormonally,
like I’m old enough not to give a flip what anybody else is doing and how.
Looks like I’m glad for my girlfriends- doing whatever their doing,
smiling at me with that knowing smile,
it’s in the little things- even when they go very fast.

Looks like racing out early in the morning to check the baby bluebirds in my bath robe and staying up late listening to the non-stop, run-on sentence plans of two very active, young people. Trucks and cars and apartments and jobs and school and girls and guys and this one and that one and today and forever…
golden sound waves and bleary eyes.

Looks like my husband can’t find me,
but my toes can still find his toes under the covers.

Looks like my boy will drive.
Looks like I will soon be forced to wear shorts again.
Looks like I won’t be getting any younger.
Looks like I don’t know what’s coming next.

Looks like, when it comes to self improvement, my greatest opposition is
myself.

Looks like the little things are imperfect and profound and sweet and that even in the messed up mess of the day, I find myself stopping to say thank you.

Life in little things looks like embracing frustration and reaping joy,
It looks like running on empty and finding it full.
It looks like this life, this very minute.

Photo by Will Whittier@2012

Thank you God for little things,
Thank you for my little people, who aren’t so little anymore,
Thank you for the little moments that add up to big ones.
Thank you for my faulty processes and my little failures,
Thank you for stolen moments and infinite noise.
Thank you for the little things.

Just Fishin’…

I don’t have many memories from childhood- but some of the good ones include fishing adventures. My Dad loved to fish- and funny- I don’t know if he ever actually got to do it, he was so busy fixing, untangling, un-snagging, and re-rigging our lines. I remember the air and the grass and the sound of the water. I remember how my Dad could expertly tie knots in the fishing line and how he would fearlessly grab a worm and split it in two with his bare hands.

As I got older, it was fun to sit and watch the men enviously change their rigs over and over as they watched us girls haul in the fish using only our water-logged “worm sundae’s” and a little patience. One day, Sally and I counted “Thirteen!” from the bank, while Dad was helping Grandpa, who was risking life and limb to rescue his lure from way up in a tree. Even then, in the midst of the worst of aggravations, my Dad would put down his pole to tie on my hooks whenever it needed doing.

I’m so thankful to both of my parents for helping me to develop a love for the outdoors. It was in moments like these- and many others- from camping to more simple backyard experiences, that I learned to talk to God and believe in the unseen. Things were very tough at home- but there was a place I could go- even if I didn’t understand the respite I would find there.

So this week, I have been fishing with the Wil-de-beast. Historically, he hasn’t cared all that much about fishing- but it now seems he has caught the bug. He wakes up in the morning thinking about the pole. He even missed a workout- which for him, is unheard of.

On the first day- the Wil-de-beast and I decided we wanted to try worms, so we dug up the field grass, right where we stood, with whatever implements we could find in the tackle box. Our most useful tool was the fillet knife- we were able to carve away chunks of ground and quickly grab exposed worms before they got away. Using a knife ensured that we had nice worm pieces anyway. This was sort of a trap-setting, living-off-the-land kind of thing and I’m sure the worms were juicier and the catch was sweeter since we extracted these babies from the earth ourselves.

This fishing fun led us to the Walmart store, where the Wil-de-beast spent an inordinate amount of time in the fishing aisle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so eager to plunk down ten bucks on his necessities; now I know why Grandpa was willing to risk his life up in that tree.

The beast has spent hours alone out in the not-so-easy-to-fish-in paddle boat exploring little coves and experimenting with different bait. He caught some big bass and some nice crappie- but he also caught the ability to enjoy the journey- fish or no fish. As I look out the window, and spot the boat tucked into a little cove, my eyes fill with tears as I realize these are hours spent with God. As he watches the water ripple and listens to the birds sing- there’s likely a voice speaking to his heart and it’s likely that the Wil-de-beast is talking back… and he thinks he’s just fishin’.

It’s these kind of little things that really blow me away.

The Little Things…
 I don’t know about you- but I find that details, business, entertainment, and connectivity can creep in and smother my creative impulses. If I’m not careful, I find that somehow I stop breathing- fail to hear the birds sing- and find myself dry and out of the stream. In these shorter posts, entitled, “The Little Things,” I hope to make a public effort to tend my private heart by recording a few of the little things that bring me life. Please join me in this adventure by taking a moment to record for yourself how you stepped into the stream today. What little thing did you intentionally do for yourself that makes you laugh, cry, or sing? What are you doing that makes you feel alive? Record them for yourself and share with the rest of us when you feel you can. I would love to interact.
Happy little things!
~Catherine