Bird Poop and Other Nasty Stuff

We have swallows that have taken up residence on our side deck. The deck we like to sit out on and commune with nature….except, I don’t really enjoy the poopier side of nature. The birds decided a while back that they found the perfect perch for their nest. The location is on top of a covered electrical outlet way up on the side of our house. (the kind of outlet one plugs Christmas lights into) Well…..the proud parents have two hungry babies. That has been interesting to watch, the babies and all. I just don’t like mom and dad and their poop. Gross. Not to mention if someone (namely ME) is standing out on the deck, too close to said nest, the birds dive bomb me. They look like they are coming straight for me, and then they make a strong 90 degree turn. They are trying to scare me. But I am bigger than they are….I say this yet, I might require some therapy later on, as this experience is causing me to have Alfred Hitchcock “Birds” type nightmares.

The little feathered dive bombers can rest easy, I’m not interested in eating their babies….but, I cannot say the same for our two outdoor cats, Salem,and Nikki Stix. The cats lay around on the deck all day, like cats normally do. Doing a whole lot of nothing. Right under the bird nest. I hate to mention this, but if one of those babies doesn’t fly very well when the time comes, he will surely be a cat snack. Sad….but, it is the circle of life. Or in the case of baby birds hitting the deck like a sack of wet cement….the circle of certain death. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the angry male llamas across the road from us. I am fascinated by llamas. I think I might have an unhealthy addiction actually. Is it possible to be a llama stalker?

The male llamas like to fight with each other and neck wrestle, while they are making some sort of high pitched screechy noise. Boys will be boys I guess. Who knew living out here in the sticks would be such an adventure? This is like having an up close and personal live episode of Animal Kingdom….with surround sound. Cool.

There Is Something Comforting In The Ordinary

She looked around at her life through half opened eyes, and smiled at her sleeping husband as she pushed the bed covers back. She softly kissed his forehead as he slept. She pulled on her tennis shoes for her daily walk. It was 6 am. The sun was already lighting up the sky as she glanced at the dinner dishes piled in the sink, waiting for their trip to the dishwasher. When she turned she caught a glimpse of the refrigerator covered in pictures, take out menus, grocery lists, and snippets of stuff. The cat needs more food in his dish, the bed sheets are still in the dryer, and the house is quiet. The children not up yet to greet the new day. She likes the quiet. The alone time. Time to think.

Sometimes life seems so mundane. She supposes it is in a lot of ways. It’s difficult to make dirty socks on the floor, and cleaning toilets exciting. Making coffee for her husband is not really “an event”, although her husband tells her he appreciates it. The kids grumble about getting up, but they hug her each morning. She knows she is loved. She makes breakfast, checks her calendar for the day, and sees what is new in the world as she flips the channel to the news. Some exciting stuff—some not so exciting stuff. She wipes down the counter as she contemplates the average. The ordinary. The routine.

She found out the other day that yet another of her friends has a marriage that is in trouble. It appears the long married couple is on the verge of becoming a statistic. Her heart hurts. She wonders if life ever gets easier for anyone? She doubts it. There always appear to be issues to deal with, things that need corrected, and papers that need filed. She compares people to being students of life—all of us waiting to see if our term papers comes back with red marks all over them.

She has it a lot better than most. She realizes this, and she is grateful for every one of her days. She wouldn’t give up what she has for all the money in the world. That is the truth. There is something comforting about the ordinary. Knowing that for the most part, things will be the same. Understanding that, helps the not-so-ordinary times be  less scary. Some would try and tell her that is boring.

She would disagree.

True Beauty

I read something today that inspired me.

I read all the time…usually, not for long periods of time right now, as this season of my life doesn’t really allow for that. Still, there are times when I will come across something that inspires me, causes me to think, shows me the simple, yet beautiful things of life.

No matter where we are in life, or under what circumstances…we can have beauty in our life. For those of you that think I am talking about a make-over that includes fashionable attire and a new haircut…um, no. Not that makeovers aren’t great, just not where I am heading with this. True beauty is much more than the physical. Those that possess true beauty are rare. Their beauty is exquisite, not because of flowing hair or perfect teeth. Their beauty comes not from the outside, but from the inside. Oh, you’ll know her when you see her. You’ll be drawn to her. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of her. Not because she looks like a Vogue model, but  because she understands that real beauty can’t be bought. It can only be given away.

When a mother looks deeply into her child’s eyes and says, “I am so glad you are my child. What fun and adventure you have brought into my life. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”—and the child knows the beauty of words.

When a wife wraps her arms around her husband and kisses him for no reason in particular— the man knows the beauty and importance of physical touch.

When a daughter shares memories with her mother… pieces of her heart…—the  mother knows the beauty of remembering.

When she takes time to listen a friend, with her full attention, no distractions….- and the friend knows and understands the beauty of being heard.

When someone takes time to hold a hand, or comfort the hurting… the one in pain knows the beauty of compassion.

When a woman, instead of arguing, chooses to instead hold her tongue…she shows the beauty of self control.

When she takes the time to build relationships and share her faith…the people she touches know the beauty of courage.

Each of us struggles. Most of us, everyday. But working on being beautiful is never a vain attempt.

Being beautiful is hard work. Not for the weak, or the self absorbed. Not for someone afraid of getting dirty, or someone who is scared.

Beauty takes it’s toll over the years.

Though the outside appearance might fade with age, a true beauty will have, over all those years maintained her heart. As she looks in the mirror may she see not what the world sees….but, what God sees…for He looks on the heart.

May our hearts be beautiful to Him.

Summertime, Summertime, Sum..Sum..Summertime

Aaahhh……..I’m now sitting at my desk, having just poured myself a nice tall glass of iced tea. Yes, I know sweet tea is not as healthy as ice cold water. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I consider it my vice. Out of all the horrible habits I COULD have…sweet tea is probably low on the totem pole, so to speak. With that said, now on to my blog for the day.

Even though I can’t stand the humidity, and the bugs drive me crazy…there is something about the summertime that I love. I think it is the whole casual, laid back attitude of the season. The less scheduled times, the outdoor grilling, tan skin, and laying in the hammock. The smell of fresh cut grass, kids camps, swimming pools, visiting with friends, and lightening bugs. Summer requires one to slow down.

Life is so hectic most of the time. If you are anything like me, there are days when you are so insanely busy that you don’t have time to sit still, much less relax. So much to get done, so little time. That is why summer time is a gift. A gift of slowing down. Really, life needs to have moments where we contemplate what is really important. What really makes our lives worth living……and spend time doing those things. Don’t take for granted an impromptu game of Frisbee, water gun fights, evening walks, or eating  hot dogs grilled to perfection, shared with people you love. All small things. Not expensive, not high tech, very simple.

Simple… That is the joy of summer time.

Waiting For The Train Wreck

I predicted this is what would happen. I can see it coming like a train on the tracks…… I am just waiting for the derailment. Sorry to be so sober, but sometimes that is all one can be.

The government (both federal and state) is a mess. Balancing a budget is a joke. They don’t feel they have to, after all they are the ones in charge. Uh huh. And our country is suffering for it.

With that said, as one who has dedicated most of her life to the special needs community, I have thought a lot about what is offered, and what is expected of children with disabilities. I predicted that because of budget cuts, health care bill expenses, and downward employment trends that it would affect this community….more than most.

These two articles I read within 24 hours of each other. It appears that special education services are in peril in many parts of this country. Some people would say, “so,what?”. Why should those “special kids” be any different than the rest of us…than the rest of the students out there?. Okay, I understand what you are saying, but unlike the typical kids who can learn many times IN SPITE of their teachers, most special needs children learn BECAUSE of their teachers and services. It’s just a fact. Special Education law first came to be (PL 94-142, and IDEA) because children who have special needs, those that learned differently, those that couldn’t eat, move, or breathe like the typical kids were put in the basements of schools. They were put in rooms the size of closets. Their curriculum was limited. Their teachers were second class (or were treated that way). When specific laws came into effect it helped to change things for the better. The federal, state and local funding was important…..because it gave these children a chance. A chance that each person deserves, regardless of their mental capabilities or their physical state.

Now, I read these articles and I cringe. What will happen if more states get waivers that allow them to not have to follow through with the federal funding? To not use the money for what it was originally intended? What happens when children with special needs are forced into general ed. programs with no support? No accommodations? No modifications?No help? That’s not fair to the kids. Not the special ed kids, not the general ed kids, not the teachers.

Don’t get me wrong, I think inclusion can be great BUT only if a plan is set up and everyone involved understands it and agrees to make it work NOT when a child is thrown into a room of 25 kids and told to sink or swim….. That, my friend, is pure insanity.

What is going to happen? What will special education become in the future? I don’t know….and that scares me.

Breathe Deeply

I had letters to take to the mailbox today. I walked down the driveway, deposited the letters into the mailbox, stuck the flag up and turned around. I stopped. Before me lay a scene, straight out of Farm and Ranch magazine. A bright blue sky dotted with cottony clouds. Green grass in our yard, with the “prairie grass” blowing in the distance. The back of our property where we butt up against the farm behind us, was alive with the sounds of farming. The tractor was coming over the hill, just as I turned. It was quiet except for the tractor sounds and the birds chirping in the field. I closed my eyes for a second and just took a deep breath……….

I love living in the country. I love it for so many reasons, not the least of which is that there is not the congestion here that one finds in the city. Do I miss the convenience of having everything nearby? Do I miss the wide variety of things that living in the city offers? Yes, to an extent. Those things are nice…..but, for the peace and joy that living here, in the rural midwest, gives me….it is worth it.

There is something to be said for life at a slower pace. When I lived in an urban area in the south, I don’t remember stopping to close my eyes and just breathe in the air. I don’t remember being able to drive for quite a distance without seeing another living creature except for an occasional ground hog or deer, plus I have a renewed appreciation for the farmers that provide us with our weekly groceries.

I guess no matter where one chooses to live there are things that are given up, for other things that are savored.

As for me, I think I might spend some time on the deck this evening……enjoying the sunset.

Wisdom Comes With Age

In my library/office I have a desk. On that desk I have propped a large bulletin board. I call it my “creative inspiration” board. I have tacked all sorts of things on that board. Pictures from magazines, quotes, snippets of notes, color charts, mementos….you name it. It’s probably on there. Last night as I sat at my desk, my eyes wandered to some “life lessons” I had cut out of a magazine several months ago. The article in the magazine was about women that had lived to be at least one hundred years old. What were their words of wisdom to those of us that aren’t yet centenarians? I think you might find their life lessons interesting, so I’m going to share some of them with you today. As you well know I like to share my own opinions ( I can’t help it) so I added my 2 cents worth in the parentheses. Enjoy…..and learn.

*Frances Johnson

-If it’s not terminal, why worry? And if it is, you can’t do anything about it. (this is so very true….so much of life is really not under our control, even though we like to believe it is. Worry does nothing for us. I know I’m one to talk because worry is something I’m so good at—but I’m trying to trust more than I worry.)

-If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. (I don’t know about you, but for myself I realize that sometimes I run around like a chicken with it’s head chopped off –I know a pleasant visual. It would be better for me to just sit quietly and wait.)

-A meal’s not done until you have dessert. (Enough said…and if it happens to be chocolate than all the better.)

-Stay active and keep your mind sharp. (I plan on still having my wits about me when I’m old…and if I don’t…well, I won’t know the difference.)

-Something good usually comes out of bad events. (I have a favorite movie quote that is similar to this. “Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts.”  It really is about perspective. No one I know enjoys life’s bad events, but they happen, so try to find at least a little good in the midst of the bad.)

When playing Scrabble, don’t use up your S’s right away. (I agree.)

*Edna Anderson

-Keep walking. You’ll be so happy you can walk when you’re old. (I love to walk. I think these are wonderful words of wisdom. Walking is not only good physical exercise, but is a good time to think, or chat with a friend.)

-Avoid a fast talker when looking for a husband. Go for someone who’s steady. (I don’t think she means find a man that is a limp dishrag or someone who is just a knot on a log. I think she means a man who is there for the long haul. Someone with grit and determination….because life is hard and so is marriage. It is not for the faint of heart. If you want a fast talker buy a parrot.)

-More is not necessarily better. Going for first or biggest leads to unhappiness. (All one has to do is take one look at the entertainment industry in this country and this bit of wisdom will be obvious. Things, wealth, and popularity do not buy happiness. That is why so many entertainers are in rehab, divorced, or dead. Sad, but true.)

-There are still happy times ahead after loss. (I know this from personal experience. I am a living testament to the fact that there is happiness after loss. Thank you, Lord.)

*Melva Radcliffe

-Anything you love is important. ( If you love something, it matters…regardless of anyone else’s opinion. One of my favorite childhood books is The Velveteen Rabbit. It’s a great story about love.)

-Don’t be afraid to travel.  (Amen, sister! Some of my very best memories are from my travels. Traveling makes us all adventurers.Plus it also gives you some great stories to tell.)

Good table manners count. (No one is going to think highly of you, if you look or act like you were raised in a barn. It doesn’t matter how witty or intelligent you might be, if you eat like a barnyard animal it will be difficult for others to overlook it.)

-Children love praise. They’ll do something again and again just to get you to praise them. (Children are just like the rest of us. We all like a pat on the back or being told of a job well done.  Genuine praise, not false flattery. Even children can tell the difference.)

You’ll always need your girlfriends. (As much as I have truly enjoyed my friendships with males–and eventual marriage to my best friend–they cannot take the place of “my girls”. Women just “get” each other. Sometimes we babble, sometimes we sulk, sometimes we cry and sometimes we laugh….and sometimes we do it all within a 5 minute time frame. I love my girlfriends. They’ve got my back.)

-Clean your teeth three times a day. (This is especially near and dear to me. I have been blessed with “good” teeth. I know this isn’t the case with everyone, so I am grateful. I also know since I am highly addicted to southern style sweet tea that if I don’t brush my teeth at least 3 times a day I will suffer later. Since I plan on having my pearly whites until they lay me in a casket…..I will continue to brush religiously. Amen.)

You Can Go Home Again

As an adult, going back home is always a treat.  Going home, for me, means Maryland. I grew up in Westminster, Maryland in Carroll County. The county I knew–and the one that it has become are not really the same. What once was rural is now congested with homes built on top of each other. There are some things that have remained… Like Hoffman’s ice cream store. Or the church I grew up in. My old high school, my relatives homes……. but, even these things, though they remain, have changed. The church doesn’t have the same name anymore, buildings added, houses have additions–things are moved around and there are a TON more people. Home in my memory looks different, and yet I can still see the reflection of times past.

As I sat in my Aunt’s backyard this past Sunday evening looking at my cousin’s children and my children rolling down the hill, I was taken back in time to when my cousins and I were the young ones playing on that hill. The hill seems a lot smaller to me now than it did 35 years ago. Things remain the same, even though they are different. Time marches on. Now, I am the forty- something sitting in the lawn chair watching the kids play, and my aunts and uncles are now grandparents. Time has changed our roles in this family scene.

My aunt and I had a discussion about how things have changed. We can’t expect that things will stay the same forever. People get older, move away, new people move in, births are celebrated, deaths are mourned, schools are added, new stores, churches change names….in short, life happens. The truth is I wouldn’t want things to remain exactly the same. That would be weird, huh?  With all the changes over the years I’ve come to realize that I can’t physically go back home. Not really. Not to the home that I once knew. It no longer exists. Time has taken it prisoner. It is tucked away in pictures from years gone by. I like to visit, to be reminded of what it used to be like.

It’s not sad. I’m not sad. I’ve come to the conclusion that the word home really is about the people. The relationships. Those are what make home real. It’s the collective memories of family history that connect us….that take us home. Whether one still lives in the same community he/she grew up in, has trekked across the United States, or half way around the world, home is being reminded of family. Home is shared memories of home made ice cream on hot summer days, playing wiffle ball with cousins, family gatherings at Christmas, Friday night football, baseball at the park, and grandma’s potato salad. Chocolate sheet cake, wild games of UNO, trips to the ocean. Baptisms, scholarships, graduations, summer afternoon drives, and just being together.

So, even though the surroundings might change—and home doesn’t look like home anymore, just know that home is there. You can go visit it again….and again, because home resides in the heart.