Rockin’ the cradle: Heavy metal for the kiddos

Yes! It’s true — what we’ve all been longing for has finally happened.

Metallica wrote a children’s book!

Metallica book

I know what you’re thinking.

You thought it was enough singing little Timmy to sleep with the soft, melodic tones of “Creeping Death” and “Seek & Destroy.” Must you read to him as well?

But hear me out: this way Timmy can learn heavy metal and his ABC’s. At the same time!

No more will he ask why mommy wears so much leather, or wonder at the meaning of daddy’s tattoo — the one with the bloody hammer and the words, “KILL ‘EM ALL.”

Preorder your copy now and receive it in time for Christmas!

metal christmas

Full Disclosure: I’m 99.9% sure the target audience for this book are fans and collectors. Not children. Also, a portion of the sales goes to charity.

So there’s that.

And before any metalheads accuse me of casting aspersions on their band, let me set you straight: I recognize Metallica’s talent and influence. They are legend.

They’re not my cup of tea, but I recognize their talent.

When I was in high school my taste ran more toward oldies (Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens). Though I was also fond of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. (I believe I was about Timmy’s age when “Dark Side of the Moon” came into being.)

Oh, and sometimes in the early evening when the cloud cover was just right (for some reason it worked best with clouds), I could get a jazz station on my little radio that looked something like this:

radio

I’ve no idea if it was real jazz or not, but it seemed so to my teenage ears and I felt quite sophisticated listening to it. Later I came to appreciate classical music as well, my taste heavily influenced by Bugs Bunny.

The point is, I like a wide variety of music. Especially when it’s done well, and I can agree Metallica does their thing well.

But in case you’re one of those holdouts who think heavy metal isn’t all that heavy, just hear what a couple of classically trained musicians do with Metallica.

The video is a bit old – 2015! – but worth a listen just the same:

Rock on, baby. Rock on. 🎸

A colonoscopy means I love you

What’s this? She’s posting twice in a week?
*rifles through desk*
*checks calendar*
Hmm, not a holiday. What gives?
*Gasp* Has Jupiter aligned with Mars?

Um… don’t think so. Truth is I’m feeling a little loopy because I had a colonoscopy today.

I mean, sure, it was several hours ago and people my age (or, ahem, younger) get this test with little fanfare. But this time I did it, okay?

And I feel this deserves some recognition.

crowd cheering

Normally I just avoid doctors and pretend nothing is wrong. It’s a simple medical plan and it served me well for years.

I was more than content to continue said plan and then, boom! Husband has a heart attack.

The day after — he was in the hospital and I was home — I woke up and looked at his pillow.

It occurred to me that had things gone differently — had we waited too long to go to the hospital, had he said, “eh, I’m sure it’s just heartburn,” or whatever — I could so easily have woken up a widow. In just a few short moments, my life would have changed forever.

The second thing that occurred to me: I couldn’t have blamed him for anything. Sure, he has always enjoyed his steak and maybe he didn’t eat as healthy as he could have, but he did better than most people.

More importantly, he has always gone for his annual physicals, gets all the tests they recommend, even exercises regularly.

Where as I

And that’s when it occurred to me: we should take care of ourselves for the people we love.

The next day I spent some time online, researching local doctors. Found one with really good reviews and made an appointment. When we met she ordered all these tests because… well, everything was overdue. In this last month I’ve been poked and prodded and… yeah, now probed.

The good news is, all is well and fine and clean as a whistle. The colonoscopy guy was very impressed. He told me they rarely see colons as smooth as mine.

I wonder if they offer medals for these kinds of things? Seems like they should.

Okay, yeah, maybe I am feeling a little loopy.

In any case, consider this a public service announcement. Have you been practicing doctor avoidance? Are there issues you’ve been neglecting, a lump you’re curious about, or something just doesn’t feel right?

Been putting off that physical?

Look at the people you love, pick up the damn phone and make the appointment.

Even if it means you have to drink something funky for a colonoscopy. Do it for the ones you love.

And just for kicks, and because I’m still a little loopy, here’s Kermit’s visit to the doctor:

P.S. to Husband: 💓

One year, one week, two days and eight hours ago… we moved. Also, results from our birthday poll!

It’s true. I’ve been a Minnesotan for over a year now, survived a winter even the natives are calling “brutal” and, in case you’re wondering, I’ve not yet adopted the dialect… dontcha know.

I’m working on a post where I’ll talk about all the things I’ve learned this last year: the differences between city folk and small town folk, what it’s like moving across the country, switching from a desert landscape to a snowy one, stuff like that there.

And by working on it, I mean I sometimes think about it. There may or may not be actual sentences written down.

In the meantime, below are some pictures of our recent trip with our kids. They came up for a visit and to escape Phoenix heat. We traveled over to Duluth for a few days as well as spent some time in the cities. (This is a true sign of Minnesotan: I now say things like, “We went to the cities.”)

Here’s a few from Duluth (click on an image to enlarge):

Note the big ship? When you see ships like that, you begin to realize just how big Lake Superior is.

Here’s the aerial bridge lowering once the ship passed through:

Gotta pity the poor cars who had to wait all that time for the bridge to come back down. It had to be at least 15 minutes from the time the bells first started ringing.

Speaking of which, they really don’t give you a lot of warning as to when the bridge is going to rise. On our last day there, we thought we’d walk across it.

Full disclosure: we had noticed a ship was coming but there was some debate on our part as to whether the bridge would have to rise for it or not. In any case, the walking light still showed “Walk” so we walked across.

It was at the halfway mark — and believe me, this is one long bridge — when the bells start sounding and a voice comes on telling us to “Get the hell off the bridge.”

Okay, so maybe he didn’t say those exact words. In any case, we got the hint and picked up our pace. Like, ran. We made it just in time before it started to rise.

Death comes to us all_2

Other than almost dying, it was a great trip. We toured a maritime museum, a whale back ship and a mansion, though I didn’t think to take pictures at any of them. I guess we were enjoying ourselves too much?

Though I got a picture of my ice cream:

curry caramel cashew and salted licorice

On the left is Salted Licorice, on the right is Curry Caramel Cashew. Sounds weird, right? Yet they were delicious. Daughter had a scoop of Honey Chamomile in a cup of espresso. (Calming and invigorating.)

So then we went to the cities and hung out mostly in downtown St. Paul. Son said it was kind of like New York City but without all the people.

That’s me getting friendly with F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Did you know he was from St. Paul? It’s true!)

Charles Schultz is from Minnesota as well, so the whole Peanuts gang is hanging out in Landmark Park. That’s Husband discussing philosophy with Linus and Sally.

I have one other photo I simply must show you. After we dropped the kids off at the airport, Husband and I stopped at an antique shop in Elk River.

Where I found this guy!

Froggy friend

Is he not the most glorious fella you’ve ever seen? I mean, he’s so charming holding the completely impractical planter I found at WalMart for five bucks.

Say, if any of you have any suggestions as to what I should name my froggy friend, let me know. Right now the leading contenders are Bowie, Elton, or Irving.

Alrighty, so now it’s time for the results of our poll. We really seemed to hit a nerve with this one. You people have some strong opinions on birthday parties for adults.

For a reminder, these were the questions:

poll questions

As it turns out, 40% of you find parties childish while 32% of you accept them only if you’re hammered.

Only one person — one person mind you! — threatened to end our friendship over this. I found this heartening. (No one chose the final question.)

There was also a write-in option. These were the responses:

Other answers

If we evaluate the overall intent, I think it’s safe to say none of these responses are in favor of parties. Though I want to pull out the final one:

I love to celebrate life, on any day. Blessed to be alive.

Yes!!!

That’s the ticket, friends. Rather than reserve one day out of the year where we honor each other, how about we celebrate every day?

Though maybe without the noisemakers and pointy hats. Ain’t no one in favor of those.

Birthday blues (1)

To all of you who took our poll — and waited so patiently for the results — thank you for playing.

Now go eat some cake and start celebrating life. 🙂

happy

 

Welcome to Our Church of Holy Introversion

As I said last week, I’m on vacation now and as such, wasn’t sure I’d be posting this week. But the responses from my birthday poll (if you haven’t taken it yet, get to it), made me think of the time I celebrated those of us who don’t enjoy celebrations. It’s one of my favorites – I’m particularly fond of the illustrations Daughter and I did together – so even if you’ve read it before, I hope you’ll pardon the rerun. This first ran in November 2017:

Welcome to Our Church of Holy Introversion. Please enter quietly…

Feel free to stay in the comfort of your own home and join us online. This, my fellow introverts, is your safe haven. 

Now let us gather together (not literally together, of course; we respect personal boundaries here), and recite our Opening Prayer of Introversion:

O Holy Silence and Quiet Interlude, we do seek you.
Make our trembling hearts, which feel deeply, but discretely, Yours. Lead us to that still place within our souls where we can find rest, and, if possible, keep the noisy people from talking for just one freakin’ minute.
We say all this in the name of the system we hold good and faithful and true, Dewey Decimal.
Amen.

And now it’s time for our first hymn. The words are printed in your bulletin if one was emailed to you, but if you don’t have one, no worries. They’re on the screen too.

As always, you can sing along if you want, or just think the words quietly to yourself. That works too.

I’ll Go Home
(sung to the tune of I’ll Fly Away)

Some glad moment when this party’s o’er,
I’ll go home (go home)
To my place where silence never ends,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Just a few more weary minutes then,
I’ll go home (go home)
No more mingling and faking friendliness,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Thank you, everyone. That was beautiful. Boy, those old standards always bring a tear to the eye, don’t they?

I’d like to point out that playing organ for us today (from the comfort of her own residence, of course), is Beatrice Milford from Lincoln, Nebraska. Thank you, Beatrice, for sharing your gifts with us, however privately.

Now it’s time for sharing our joys and concerns. If you have any you’d like to share, please type them in the box below. Don’t be shy.

Though if you are shy, that’s okay too.

Katy in Melbourne: I have a joy. Yesterday at work, my boss approved my request to work more from home. I start next week. Three days at home, two at the office. Hallelujah!

Joel in Austin: I have a concern. I’m a student and in two weeks, I have to give an oral report in my English Literature course. Please pray for me. Pneumonia would be nice. Or maybe a brief coma.

Felicity in Seattle: I just want to say how thankful I am for finding this church. I feel like this is a place where I can be myself, let my hair down and get crazy if I want to. Not that I want to. Well, you know what I mean.

Yes, we do, Felicity.

Thank you everyone for sharing. We also received a number of private messages from individuals not comfortable with voicing their concerns in a private forum. We respect that.

And now it’s time to recite our statement of faith:

We believe in the Triune Behavior of Introspection, Self-Awareness, and Not Speaking Until You’re Spoken To and Possibly Not Then Either.

We believe in Thinking Things Over for a Really, Really Long Time Before Acting on Them, and Then Thinking a Little Longer.

We believe a few trusted friends are far better than many friends, and we uphold every person’s right to refuse a hug when they don’t want to be hugged, and, oh, if only everyone did.

We believe in the building of more libraries, the sanctity of quiet spaces, and the necessity of a kitty cat on our lap and/or a doggie at our feet.

Cat for an IntrovertWe believe in a Brooding Spirit,
The Holy Contemplation,
The Forgiveness of Faking Friendliness,
And the Joy of Creativity, forevermore.
Amen.

Now, before our final hymn, I’d like to draw your attention to a few events happening this week. As always, newcomers are encouraged to attend at any time, and remember, everything is offered online.

(Of course.)

Monday Podcast

Coping with Extroverts at Work: Strategies for Surviving Committee Meetings, Group Projects, and Coworkers with Pet Phrases

Tuesday Video Series

Establishing Boundaries – Handling the Extroverts in your Life, Episode 5: Violence is Not the Answer

Wednesday Webinar

Recluse or Hermit: Choosing the Right Lifestyle for You

Thursday Choir Meeting & Potluck

Please email our director, Winifred Placida, if you’re interested in joining. She’ll send you the music so you can sing from home. If you’d like to join the potluck, send us an email and we’ll give you the details once we figure them out.

Friday Book Club Meeting

Online discussion of the new book: “I was an Extrovert Wannabe – Confessions of a Closeted Introvert”Introverted boy

We hope you’ll find time to join us for one or more of these activities. And remember, if you have any ideas for future events, please don’t hesitate to text us.

And now it’s time for our final hymn. I think you all know it. Beatrice, will you start us off, please? 

How Great’s My Home
(Sung to the tune of How Great Thou Art)

Verse 1: O Lord, my room, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all these four walls mean to me
I have my books, my laptop and my Netflix,
It’s all I need, for an evening of pure glee.

Chorus: Then sings my soul! I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Then sings my soul, I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Verse 2: When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And read Thoreau, and hear about his beans,

He make good points, perhaps a bit pretentious,
Though I gotta say, his cabin sounds sweet to me.

(Chorus)

Verse 3: When a friend should come, to a point of understanding,
And drive me home, what joy shall fill my heart,
I’ll tell them thanks, and promise I’ll call them real soon,
And then proclaim, “My Home, how great thou art!”    

(Chorus)

Thank you all for joining us today. Please be sure to sign our guest book on your way out, and remember: There is nothing wrong with you! You are perfect just the way you are!

And now, let us all rise for the blessing:

May your books be plenty
And your interruptions few.
May no unwanted attention
Ever shine upon you.
May peace be in your home
May social obligations be few
And may the extroverts in your life
Finally start listening to you.

We’ll leave you today with a quote from our Patron Saint of Introverts, Greta Garbo:

I never said, “I want to be alone.” I only said, “I want to be let alone! There is all the difference.

And let all the Introverts say: Amen!

Note: The inspiration for this post came from Brian of Bonnywood, who gave his permission for me to organize this Church, even though it was his idea.
Thank you, Brian!  🙂

Singing the Birthday Blues… and no, it’s not my birthday

I have a fantasy that one day I will work among adults who do not celebrate their birthdays.

It’s not that I deny I’m getting older (still alive at 55). It’s just that I’m an adult now and frankly, it seems a little silly. Living one more year isn’t that big of an accomplishment. Most people manage it.

But more than that, there’s something else about birthdays that I really hate. Like, really really really hate. And people who know me are aware and act accordingly.

Last year for my birthday, Daughter drew a picture for me that highlights my feelings exactly. I will share it with you now when it is not my birthday because… Hello? Have you been listening?

Birthday blues (1)
That’s me in the Groucho Marx glasses.

I hate the attention. Can’t stand it. During any party my primary thought is, “if I leave, will anyone notice?” So when I’m the guest of honor, the answer is usually “No.”

Not always, but usually.

I’m aware that my dislike of parties can be an issue for my friends and family. Most of whom are very generous and loving and effusive with their emotions. Which is annoying as hell.

Honestly. I need to find new friends.

But work? Work should be free of birthday celebrations because, you know, it’s work. Yet at every place I’ve been, birthdays are all the rage.

At my last job, I had to tell my boss to please stop giving me flowers. She usually did it at the beginning and end of the school year, on Admin Assistant Day, my birthday, and all major holidays. I think she once did it on National Eat a Pickle Day. Not sure.

The thing is, Husband knows not to send me flowers at work and it never occurred to me to tell anyone else. If I’m in the hospital? Sure. Bring it on. If I’m home? Better yet. But at work? Nuh-uh. No way, no how.

Reason being:

“Oh how pretty – what’s the occasion?!”
“Is it your birthday? Oh my gosh! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
“Ooooh, how beautiful! Lucky you!”
“Are those from your husband or do you have a secret admirer? Haha!”

People who normally never talk to me — and honestly, it’s my favorite thing about them — are suddenly talking to me!

My God!!!

As I mentioned before, I now work at a convent. I have also stated that I am enjoying this job very much. It seems to have all the criteria for happy employment: meaningful work, pleasant coworkers, peaceful environment. I feel quite lucky.

Sadly, it has a downside. I became aware of it just two short days into the job, during lunchtime. I was in the dining hall enjoying a lovely bowl of tomato basil soup with croutons on top.

Have you ever put croutons in your soup? It’s quite good. You should try it.

Suddenly someone starts singing that damned birthday song. I look around and there by the dessert tray stands the poor slob to whom the entire dining hall is now singing.

But wait, it’s not just one verse! Because they’re Franciscan Sisters, they have to give it their own special flair.

Here’s the verse they add: “God’s blessings on you, God’s blessings on you,” etc. With their hands stretched out for the blessing.

Beings how it was only my second day, and beings how I didn’t know the person to whom they were singing, I figured it was a fluke. Sadly, it was not.

When it was repeated a couple weeks later, I knew it was their custom. An insane, diabolical custom in an otherwise sane environment.

At the time I was sitting next to Mr. and Mrs. Boss. Once the song was over, I turned to them and said, “By the way, I’ll be taking my birthday off this year.”

“Oh really? Do you have something fun planned?”

“No. I just won’t be here.”

Fast forward a few months and… well, two things are at play here. For one, I tend to forget things. Birthdays among them, including my own.

I would have missed last year’s completely had it not been for Husband. No kidding.

The other thing? The particular department I work for has a custom of taking the birthday person out for lunch, usually the week after. The birthday person chooses the location and everyone else chips in. In other words, it’s a free lunch of your choosing.

Yeah.

Mr. Boss asked if I’d like to do the celebration on my actual birthday, rather than the week after. I thought, hey, I’ll miss the dining hall sing-a-long!  “Um… sure!”

I chose a local joint called Sanchez Burritos. It’s a little like Chipotle – you go through the line and choose your toppings for a burrito, taco salad, rice bowl, quesadilla, etc. Only in this case, the place is run by three cousins from Honduras and all their sauces and meats are prepared on site.

You should get a whiff of this place. *swoon*

As can be expected, eating with four Sisters and a man who attended seminary (though chose marriage over priesthood), they all prayed as soon as they sat down. I waited patiently.

Then Mr. Boss pulls a surprise. He has us all hold hands while he says a blessing – for Me! Giving thanks I was born, moved to Minnesota, took this job, yada-yada.

Never had THAT happen before!

My face

Anyway. We wound up having a discussion regarding birthdays. It shouldn’t have surprised me – Mr. Boss remembered what I said at that lunch several months ago and planned accordingly.

This is what happens when people live their lives focused outward. They not only remember someone’s preferences, they act on them. Amazing.

Two of the Sisters admitted they avoid the dining hall on their birthdays for the same reason I did. “I eat in my room” one told me. The other said, “I just deal with it.”

Sister LaVonne said, “I think the celebration should reflect the person being celebrated. If they don’t like attention, you should respect that.”

I had a similar conversation once with Daughter, who is as much an introvert as I am. Her feeling was that if people care about you so much as to say, “Hey, glad you’re still alive bucko,” then you should be thankful there are such people in the world and just suck it up. Besides, you might get cake.

My thinking more closely aligned with Sister LaVonne: “Please go away.”

You know, I’d really like to hear your opinions on this subject and since I’ve never done a poll before, it’s time we start. We’ll make it multiple choice and we’ll even include a write-in option for you creative types.

Next week I’ll be out of town and in all likelihood not posting – unless I pull one out of the vaults. Haven’t decided yet.

In any case, I’ll give you the results of our birthday poll the week after that.
Please choose wisely. The fate of adult birthday parties is in your hands.

Not really, but let’s pretend.

All hail Lord Cockroach! (It’s only a matter of time.)

At my old job, if a cockroach was spotted in the front office or hallway, I was the one who dealt with it. It wasn’t in my job description but beings how I didn’t run off screaming at the sight of them, it fell to me.

I will now pause to discuss the two types of cockroaches of which I am most familiar. My plan was to add pictures of real live cockroaches, but I feared some of you might run off screaming. Therefore, I shall try my hand at drawing them.

The cockroaches of my youth, the little ones who regularly visited my childhood home, were these guys:

cockroach german

They are commonly called German roaches, though as a rule, cockroaches care little for ethnic labels.

They are about an inch long, have a dusty brown coloring and can be found most anywhere, such as in your kitchen right now.

They are looking for a snack and really wish you hadn’t tossed that rotting fruit as it’s one of their favorites. That was very wasteful of you.

They’d also prefer it if you’d stop cleaning so much. You’re wiping away all the good bits. And not to make too fine a point of it, but you’re cramping their social life. How do you expect them to find their friends if you keep wiping up their poop trails?

Honestly!

The other roach of my childhood was not as frequent a visitor, though he made quite an impression with my family nonetheless. My mom referred to him as a sewer roach, but he’s more commonly called (at least in the U.S.) the American cockroach.cockroach germanYou’ll note I used the same picture, just made it bigger. It’s not just that I’m lazy… okay, yeah, I was being lazy. But really, their bodies aren’t that different. It’s all about size and coloring.

He’s much bigger than his German counterpart and more of a shiny, reddish-brown.

Oh, and here’s an interesting fact: the American cockroach didn’t originate in America. He came from Africa. Wanna guess how he got here?

That’s right! It’s commonly believed they arrived on slave ships. So the next time you see one of these buggers, meditate on that.

The reason my mom called them sewer roaches (many in Phoenix do) is that they often come up through the drains. Plus, they’ve got that shiny thing going on, giving them a lovely sewer aesthetic.

Ah, the memories these fellas conjure up for me. I can still see Brother running out of the bathroom screaming, streaking down the hall because a roach came up the drain as he showered. Or my parents practically tearing apart our T.V. room because they spotted a particularly large one scurrying across the tile. “It’s as big as my foot!” my mom sputtered, somewhat known for exaggeration but in this case, she wasn’t far off.

Good times, good times…

It was the American cockroach I dealt with at my old job, back when I worked at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sometimes we’d find them in the hallways, but more often they hung out where we did, in the offices and our break room. One of the offices was very close to both the break room and janitor’s closet. Meaning it saw a lot of cockroach action. Sadly, the secretary who used this office really really really hated cockroaches.

She and I, we became friends. All she had to do was come to my desk and give me that look.Bonnie

I’d ask her where it was; she’d give me its last known whereabouts. I’d open my cabinet and withdraw my tools: a plastic cup and a stiff piece of paper. After locating the little fella – who was rarely little – I’d slip the cup over him and slide the paper underneath.

cockroach method

Live capture, folks. I only do live capture.

Once he was safely ensconced within his plastic dome, I’d take a walk outside. He and I, we’d make our way across the staff parking lot and over the rocky landscape, out to the tall chain-link fence that held us prisoner. There I would set him free.

cockroach leaving

You see, I wanted to give the guy some options. He could take his chance crossing the street to enter one of the nice Scottsdale homes on the other side, where they probably served premium cuts of meat and world-class wines. Or he could return to our break room for a stale donut and old coffee.

My method had its detractors.

It is amazing, is it not, how many people are in favor of capital punishment? “There’s a roach in the kitchen! Kill it!”

I never argued with them. Instead I would say, “I don’t like to hear the crunch.” Because, you know, there’s always a crunch.

And besides, I liked getting outside. Dawdling by the mesquite tree, breathing in the city air… ah, the smell of exhaust fumes on a hot afternoon. There’s nothing quite like it.

“They’re just gonna come back!” my detractors would say in a terribly condescending tone. (My detractors were always men.)

I’d say, “probably,” and return to my desk.

The truth is, I kind of knew they were returning. I figured that was why they became so easy to catch. I think they recognized me.cockroach waving

“Oh, it’s the blonde – no need to worry. Field trip!”

What I didn’t realize was that they were returning for a reason and that reason was not stale donuts.

It happened during my last summer at the school. Our bookstore manager was trying to track down a package and was concerned it had gotten mixed in with some other boxes headed to storage. “I really don’t want to go in that room,” she told me, “but I think I have to.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s the Roach Room.”

Gasp!

I’d heard tales of this room but I’d never actually been there. Now was my chance! I quickly offered my assistance. She said yes!

We made our way down the empty hallway. The room was at the end of the Social Studies department, where students learn history, political science, and how we got into this mess.

The bookstore manager got out her keys, unlocked the door and shivered a little. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked me.

“Yeahyeahyeah,” I said.

She opened the door and flipped on the light. I expected to hear scurrying… there was none. We stepped in. No roaches. None!

I was indignant. “I thought you said—“

She turned to face me and her eyes got wide. She pointed behind me. I turned toward the wall…

Holy hell!cockroach wall

It was just like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland where all those bugs are crawling up the cave wall!

It. Was. So. Cool.

She did not share my enthusiasm.

Anyway, here’s the thing: there were no drains in this room! No sink, nothing containing water or food. Nothing! Just boxes and boxes of books and old files. That’s it.

So what were the roaches doing there?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? They’re educating themselves. Reading up, studying our history. No doubt making notes of our failures and weaknesses.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. They will one day rule us all. They were here long before us and they will remain long after. We have to come to terms with this. There’s little sense in fighting it.

And when they finally rise to power, who do you think they spare but the one who showed mercy?

So the next time you smush one under your shoe and hear that crunch, remember there’s another one nearby. They’re always nearby.

They’re watching you.

They know what you’ve done.Cockroach mad

Springtime is for the birds

Spring has officially arrived to our Minnesota home:crabapple

Yeah, I know according to the calendar Spring has been here awhile, but it’s only really felt like Spring for the past week or so. And it’s not that a flowering crabapple is an official start, but it sounds good to me.

Speaking of trees, we had to remove a maple that was too close to the house. The tree man did the deed last week. Underneath the maple were a whole lotta hostas.

hostas

With the maple gone, so was the shade for the hostas. I transplanted them to our far more shady backyard.

Wanna know how many I transplanted? Sixty-five! Crazy, right?

But they sure look nice in my pretty little woodland corner, so it was worth it.backyard hostas As I worked, the neighborhood birds entertained me. (You knew birds had to come into the conversation eventually, right?)

The chickadees were being their typical adorable selves, ‘natch, and our downy woodpecker is ever the charmer.

 

By the way, all the bird photos you’ll be seeing here have been shamelessly pilfered from the site WhatBird.com.

Please don’t tell.

Have you ever been to that site? Their search feature is pretty cool. By giving them beak size, approximate body size, primary & secondary colors, or any other features you might notice, they will give you a pretty good guess as to what the bird is. Or at least a list of birds that you can narrow down yourself.

That’s how I found out who our newest visitor to the bird feeder is: a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Rose breasted grosbeak

And the bird that was with him was his mate, though I never would have guessed it.

Rose breasted grosbeak female

Another site I use is allaboutbirds.org. It’s a great spot for learning cool facts, such as while the Grosbeak won’t be winning any awards for their nest-building – “so flimsy you can sometimes see the eggs from underneath” – their song has been described as “a Robin who’s had opera training.”

I haven’t seen a lot of this couple. (Too busy with their voice lessons, I assume.) Mostly it’s Chickadees and my Downy Woodpecker. Oh — and the Goldfinches! Let’s not forget them.gold finchHe might be tiny, but I sure wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with him. Just look into those eyes! He means business.

Speaking of little birds – I witnessed a bunch of sparrows taking on a crow!

 

Here’s how it happened: Our neighbor has this platform feeder where he puts fruit, nuts, cracked corn, etc. So here I am plugging another hosta in the ground — think it was number 54 — when I hear a crow making an awful racket. Cawing away something awful. I look over to see what’s pissing him off.

There he is in a tree near the feeder, flapping his wings and bobbing his head in a threatening manner. I follow his gaze and there they were, a group of sparrows.

Sparrows!

Every time that crow tried to wing on over to the feeder, the sparrows dive bombed him! They swooped down all together, right at that old crow.

Whoosh!

How do you suppose sparrows work together like that? Do they draw up a battle plan ahead of time?

Gosh, I wonder if they have a squad leader?  “Sparrow One to Sparrow Two, come in from the right… Sparrow Four, wait for my call… steady… steady….move, move, move!”

Sparrows got moxie.

Oh, and here’s the best part: As I’m watching this battle raging, along comes a blue jay who just flew in and took whatever was on the feeder.

Which just goes to show: there’s no sense in fighting. The Blue Jay will win, every time.blue jay

I know a lot of people don’t like Blue Jays, but you gotta admit, with that sassy crest and stylish coloring? They cut a fine figure.

Some positive characteristics I’ve learned about jays: They mate for life, are very good parents, are highly intelligent and can make mincemeat of wasp nests in no time flat.

Oh, and here’s an interesting tidbit from the site:

The Blue Jay’s coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a Blue Jay feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed.

This is indeed true. I once found a pretty Blue Jay feather while walking Dog and brought it inside where she promptly decided to eat it. When she spit it out, it was no longer blue.

It was also covered in dog spit so I didn’t take a picture. Sorry.

And that wraps up our bird discussion for today. In review, please remember: even the most ordinary birds can be interesting if you just give them a chance.

Also, don’t mess with sparrows.

No chickadees this week. Instead, let’s talk more about racism

Ah, man, I like chickadees!

Yeah, sorry about that. Listen, we really wanted to talk about chickadees – and tell you about other visitors to the bird feeder! – but a certain angel chick on our shoulder was having none of it. She claimed we needed to do a follow up from last week’s post, because to write on a topic like racism and then do a fluff piece seemed a little… well, as she put it:angel on my shoulder

Fine. Get on with it then.

Okay. First some stats: Last week’s post saw a little traffic. It surpassed our record number of reblogs for a single post (more than one), broke our record for shares on Facebook (more than two), and actually brought in readers from Twitter (We’ve no idea what’s happening there; we haven’t tweeted in over three years and can’t remember the password).

It also garnered a number of comments. More comments than “likes”, which we’re told is good but seems weird. And while the comments didn’t break any records in number, they certainly did in length.
All this made us realize that what this blog needs is to cover more serious topics. Like, super serious topics. The more contentious the better!
We could cover climate change!
Abortion!
Whether or not leggings should be worn as pants!

leggings

Please don’t.

We didn’t say we wore them. We just said… eh, never mind.
We had a number of very thoughtful comments, several bringing up things we either didn’t cover or didn’t elaborate on very well.
For instance, both here and elsewhere, people pointed out that prejudice is not limited to white people. It’s a universal problem.

Oh, yeah. I meant to comment on that.

You too?
Listen, we probably didn’t introduce the subject well enough and that’s why people got a wee bit defensive.
No offense.

None taken.

Good.
In hindsight, an explanation for why the Convent was meeting on racism would have helped. You see, a few years ago the Leadership Conference of Women Religious made a pledge:

In the presence of constant and painful reminders of the deep roots of racism in our country, (we) pledge to go deeper into the critical work of creating communion, examining the root causes of injustice and our own complicity, and purging ourselves, our communities, and our country of the sin of racism and its destructive effects.

The Sisters have been at it since before we started working at the convent, though this was the first time they were going to devote a full week to it with the entire community gathered together.
Make sense?

Um… yeah… Sorry, I got distracted. There’s a national conference for nuns?

Right?! We were surprised by that too.

Anyway, it’s not that the Sisters don’t understand the issues of tribalism and the wide spread nature of prejudice, but that they were making a distinction between racial prejudices and racism.
Or maybe we should say “big-R” Racism. Meaning the collective actions of the dominant race. For America, that’s white people of European ancestry. It shows up in our laws, our institutions, our media, and embeds itself into our psyche whether we like it or not.
For a better understanding of it, here’s an excellent article on the subject and it’s not too long. It’ll take maybe five minutes, tops.

I’ll read it later.

Please do. Anyway, that’s why the timeline we created was focused in that direction.
And no, we’re not going to upload all those pictures again. If you missed last week’s post, click the damn link already.

Harsh.

Sorry.
Where was I?

You were singing that song from Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”

No I wasn’t.
Oh, I remember. So yeah, it’s true that all people are biased. Even the most self-aware of us don’t realize our own biases until we’re confronted by them.
Though rather than just shrug our shoulders and say, “oh well, everyone does it,” we push ourselves to learn and grow and improve.
Right?

Right.

Cool.
You know, we fear we may have confused matters by bringing in our personal reflections and failings. It was not our intent to wallow in “white guilt.” We hate white guilt. In truth, we hate guilt.

Guilt is an useless emotion unless it is followed by real change. That was what we were trying to get across. We used to act one way, now we see the error and will act another way.

Sounds good. I still don’t understand why nuns are talking about it.

We’ve said this before but it bears repeating: where we work is not a cloistered convent. The majority of these Sisters do not live at the Motherhouse.

Motherhouse?

Seriously. That’s what it’s called.
Several of the Sisters live within Minnesota, others are in Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, California, and Texas (in McAllen). There used to be a few in other countries, but now their only international missions are in San Rafael and Juarez, Mexico.
So if your concern was that their work would begin and end within the convent walls, you may rest easy. That’s not how they operate.

Coolcoolcool… So now what?

Well, as we told one commenter, the purpose of the Sisters’ meetings was to 1) make us aware of the need for social & political change and 2) discuss ways of getting there. Their last day was pretty intense, discussion wise, and they decided to continue exploring more ideas and ministries.

So what you’re saying is, even nuns can’t solve racism?

Um… they’re nuns. They don’t have superpowers.

Damn.

Yeah. But at least they’re not giving up. You have to give them that.

Fine. But what can I do? I need steps!

Hey, come on – we gave you steps!

You did?

Yeah. Only they were kind of hidden and random and probably made no sense.

Ha.

Shut up. For one thing, we hinted that voting is important. You understand that, yeah?

Oh… right.

Here at Feeding on Folly, we will not tell you who to vote for. However, we will suggest one thing: When casting your vote, stop thinking only about yourself. Consider the common good. The good of many over the good for you.
That is all we’ll say on the matter.

Our more step – though again, no worries if you missed it – we were advocating an end to modern day segregation.

You want me to sell my house and move?

No, we’re not saying sell your house. Unless you want to, in which case you should consult an agent and start packing.

Got it.

Here’s an idea: how about every other time you catch a movie or eat at a restaurant, you try one in a completely different neighborhood?
Also, broaden your outlook with the books you read, websites you visit, blogs you follow, and movies you see.
Even if you feel properly progressive and have an extra-crunchy liberal core, if all the media you consume is white-based, then you’re not getting enough seasoning.
The point is, get out of your comfort zone.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound like much.

Maybe not, but it’s an excellent way of broadening your perspective. Especially if where you live limits how much you can interact with people of color. In any case,  it certainly can’t hurt.

I suppose not. But I’m just one person and the problem is so vast!

Hey, listen up: You are not one person! There are loads of other people who think the same way you do (or very nearly) and are doing their part too. Don’t lose hope! Never lose hope!
You are not alone.
Okay?

Okay. Thanks.

You’re welcome.
Tune in next week when we’ll probably be talking about chickadees. Unless something comes up to divert us and then who knows?

In the meantime: Be good, be brave, and always choose love.

Word.

MLK quote

My little chickadee friends

What with one thing and another, mostly another, I find that the post I had planned for this week is not quite up to snuff.

Meaning I haven’t started writing it yet.

Instead, I’m going to show you one of the little chickadees who’s been visiting my bird feeder:

chickadee 2

Yeah, I know, it’s a lousy photo. But hey, considering it was with my phone and he was on the other side of my window — which could do with a cleaning — it’ll have to do. At the very least, you can see what dapper little birdies they are and will now understand why I’m so smitten with them.

I’m told they can get quite tame around humans. A woman from church told me that every morning as she fills her bird feeder, several come along and sit on a fence just a few feet away from her, waiting. Which I find rather charming, don’t you?

Also, here’s a YouTube video of my backyard bird sounds (gosh I hope this works):

Did it work?

If it did, you should be able to hear a two-note call over and over again (along with some geese and robins and I think at one point some ducks). That call is from the chickadees’ repertoire. Birders call it “fee-bee” and I’m told it roughly translates to “hey, sweetie.” Or as I like to think of it, “how you doin’?”

It’s a call you hear primarily in Springtime, as they’re looking for a mate to settle down and have kids together.

Admittedly, when I first heard these two notes over and over and over again, it was driving me nuts. But then I found out it was just a little chickadee looking for love and my heart went out to them. I hope they find it.

Before I go, I want to show you something I found in my quest for chickadee info. This came from a site run by a Dr. Laurie Bloomfield, who studies songbirds:

Chickadees use both songs and calls to communicate with conspecifics, and possibly heterospecifics. Songs are typically regarded as more complex signals than calls, however with only one song type (fee bee), several calls produced by chickadees may in fact be considered more complex. The vocalization made for which the birds are named is the chick-a-dee call. This call contains four notes types (in black-capped chickadees): termed A, B, C and D notes. Although the note types are almost always found in order from A through D, the number of notes in a call may vary and individual calls may not contain all note types.  For example, a call may be as followed: AAACDDD. The chick-a-dee call shows that chickadees may have an extremely complex communication system. For this reason, research continues in an attempt to identify the information that the chick-a-dee call is able to convey to conspecifics (and possibly heterospecifics). Another type of call produced by most chickadee species is the gargle call, which is used during antagonistic encounters with conspecifics.  Chickadees are well studied compared to many other species of birds; however there is still a lot that can be learned about their complex communication system. Each call variant by the birds needs to be analyzed further to elucidate the potential “message” attempting to be conveyed.

I don’t know about you, but I find the fact there are people in this world studying songbirds and analyzing their calls very reassuring. Whatever crap might be going on in the world, whatever garbage you hear in the news, somewhere else in the world there is a person looking up a tree with a mighty fine pair of binoculars, jotting down notes and probably wearing cargo pants.

I mean, just the idea that someone would write a paragraph about chickadees that includes the words “conspecifics” and “heterospecifics” fills me with joy. I must pursue this further.

Which is why I signed up for a birding class this summer in Storm Lake, Iowa. It’s part of a week-long “synod school” Husband and I are attending in late July. They have both fun and serious classes, and since he couldn’t do the ballroom dance class with me, I opted for the one called “Robins, Raptors and Ducks: The Basics of Bird Watching.”

According to the course description, two class periods will be spent at different “Northwest Iowa Watchable Wildlife areas.” Also, it says I’m to bring a good pair of binoculars, so if you have any suggestions for me, I’d appreciate it.

five birders with equipment
I will soon look like one of these people. (Gah, I need to get a hat!)