How Long Do Birds Live?

The truth is, I never really thought about it. I never wondered. Even though I am attracted to birds. I watch them. Talk to them. Welcome them into my day as messengers from Spirit. I never wondered about them.

So as I sit on my couch, watching a Red Headed Woodpecker bang his head against the same old tree, I wonder what else is in front of me, every day, that I look at without seeing? Without understanding. Without curiouslity. When did I stop wondering?When did I stop asking?

As a child I drove my parents MAD with my wondering-unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing about me that maddened them. I wanted to know where God lived? And if Heaven was in the clouds, and planes could fly though the clouds, why didn’t all the people in Heaven fall through the clouds? I wanted to know how to decide something when there were always at least two choices? And, what makes something Good or Bad? And, if the earth was spinning why couldn’t I feel it? And, where do birds go to die? I never saw a bird just dead from old age. A cat may have gotten it. Or a car windshield. But I never saw a bird fall dead from a tree limb, or drop over mid step.

I think my curiosity resurfaced because I was sitting still. Warm cup of morning coffee in hand. No where to go. Nothing to do. (I delude myself, it is 5 days before Christmas and there is a ton to do. Denial is a beautiful thing!) But as I sat, I began to wonder about the New Year. How/what did I want to live, feel, do in 2016? As I wondered, looking out of the front window, I began to see. Really see. The birds.

I remembered I love to wonder. I love to move slowly, take time, ask questions. And, I really love the answers!

So, with Google at my literal fingertips I Googled “how long does a Robin live?” I was so fascinated, and so enjoyed that feeling of satisfied curiosity, that I Googled “how long does a Bluejay live?”

Birds live much longer than I thought. Robins live 4-5 years. The oldest banded robin lived 13 years 11 months. Blue jays live about 7 years, the oldest studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 ½ years old. One captive female lived for over 26 years.

Now you know too!

Have a WONDER FILLED Holiday,
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I could, but I don’t want to…

When I was younger I did things because I could. Or should. Or perhaps I didn’t know any better. I could talk on the phone, make dinner, oversee the kids homework. I carried a washer and dryer into the basement in my first married apartment. I helped build an addition, doubling the size of our home, with a 2 year old underfoot and another one on the way. For several years I sustained a 2 hour commute, couch surfed or stayed in the cheapest room.

I am not complaining. In fact I am bragging. These were badges of honor to me. The more I could do, the more valuable I felt. Self sacrifice, manual labor, inconvenience were all indications of my fortitude. I was an Amazon woman. I didn’t need any help. Thank you very much.

But today I feel differently. I hear myself saying, “I could do that…but I don’t want to.” I don’t want to drive there. I could but I don’t want to clean out the garage. I don’t want to hang sheet rock, drive a nail, or go to Lumber Liquidators, EVER. If I am on the phone and Tom asks me where the refrigerator is, I don’t show him.

Part of me is afraid I have gone soft. That I’m being a baby. A wimp. I am also concerned this is my creative way of pretending it has nothing to do with my age. It’s not that I can’t lift that bundle of roof shingles, I just don’t want to…images

I think what I am getting at is choice. And wisdom.

A very wise woman once told me, “If it is not my passion it is not my job.” So today I check with myself before I throw myself into a habituated pattern of Amazonian pursuits. Do I want to do this? Is this my job? And yes, I admit, I must ask, “Will I throw my back out?”

XO

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Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

Each morning, on my “power walk” route, I pass an older gentleman, standing in the same spot, looking out over the city. Perhaps this is his morning ritual. Each morning he tells me I look beautiful as I trudge by him. Recently he added that my nails looked pretty too.

I dismiss these compliments somewhat automatically. Is he kidding? I’m sweaty. I haven’t washed my face. Or showered. I do not resemble the young women that pass me on the left in their color coordinated Lycra. I wear an old sweat shirt from the kids high school sports teams  — a politically incorrect Native American’s profile plastered on the front. I did recently buy some pretty snazzy sneakers though…although I don’t think they are called sneakers anymore.

I easily decide he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Today on my way back past him he added, “You look like a movie star.” I smiled. “Lily Tomlin, that’s it, you look like Lily Tomlin.”

Really?

Now…I think Lily Tomlin is funny as hell, but I don’t think she is pretty. I actually think she is a bit homely, in an Edith Ann kind-of way.

For as much as I thought I had disregarded his compliment, I noticed the impact his comparison had on me. My feet felt heavier.

Almost home, my front steps in the distance, I realized I had “done it again.” I had dismissed a compliment but readily believed a slight — even though I knew he hadn’t meant it as such. Why was being compared to someone I didn’t think was particularly attractive a perfect fit, while being told I looked pretty rolled off my back?

Do you do this?

I remember many years ago speaking at a conference for therapists. I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference. Not a great placement.

I did my talk. I saw heads nodding which I took as a good sign. People were a bit ansi to get on their way, but I thought I held their attention.

At the end of the presentation I read through the participants evaluations. They were filled with good to excellence scores and comments. Except for one person, who clearly HATED me and everything I said. She, I assume it was a ‘she’ from her floral penmanship, wrote that my presentation was not based in the real world of addictions, that my ideas were pompous and that I should park my Mercedes at the door.

Ouch. The air left my lungs.

“But I don’t own a Mercedes,” I countered to myself as I read her responses. “I once had a Oldsmobile Bravada but got rid of it because I felt pretentious driving it.” I wanted her to know this.

I drove home hunched over the wheel, replaying her assessment of me. Not one of other kind, positive, complimentary comments, from the other 100 evaluations, made it into my long term memory.

I was told as a kid, more often than I needed to hear, “Don’t get too big for Scanyour britches.” Or worse yet, “You’re getting to big for your britches.” I had been caught thinking well of myself. I had the audacity to consider myself, even for a moment, special, smart, funny, or cute. If my mom got the faintest whiff of my ego’s presence she would escort it quickly out of the room.

I didn’t learn to believe well of myself.

My mentor in grad school told me that 50% of the people were always going to like me and 50% would not. He suggested, for me to have a happy life, I might want to stand with the 50% that liked me.

Huh. Novel idea in my world. What if I did?

So I will take the compliment. I chose to believe I look pretty — just like Lily Tomlin. My nails look pretty too. Not bad for a Thursday morning. I will take all the positive comments that come my way until I begin to believe them.

It takes 7 compliments to undo 1 criticism.

But whose counting?

XO

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Inspiration for a Monday morning

We happened to flip through to the Grammy’s last night.  As with any television awards show we watched with distraction. Folding laundry. Paying bills. Organizing for the week ahead.

Until…a bright, red haired Cyndi Lauper introduced a duet by Carole King and someone I didn’t know, Sara Bareilles. I love Carole King. Her songs comforted and inspired me as a teen. I was braver because of her words.

I sat down to watch. With all of my attention. I felt goosebumps as these two women, Carole older, Sara younger, sang and played their pianos to each other and to me.

I was still moved this morning, so much so I decided to share it with you.

Sit down. Enjoy.

Carole King and Sara Bareilles

 

 
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Why do I feel bad when I compare myself to perfect people?

I know, I know, there are no perfect people.

That is what I tell myself when I am comparing myself to the woman standing in front of me in the check out line in Whole Foods.  A beautiful 60-ish woman, who is toned (specifically no giggle arm or belly), artistic yet casually dressed, well spoken with kind words to the check-out woman and the guy bagging her well chosen groceries. I am certain she has kept her girlish figure even though I imagine she has birthed babies.

I think her oldest is probably a brain surgeon who has developed a miracle non invasive procedure to help menopausal women remember their children’s birth dates. Her youngest is most likely a rocket scientist who is developing a garbage collecting space rocket to gather all the crap we have imagesleft up there…as evidenced in the movie Gravity — the debris blowing Sandra Bullock dangerously far away from the mother ship. This woman smiles warmly, with perfectly straight still white teeth, as she hands me the separator that will distinguish her stuff from mine.

She is not perfect. I am sure. I tell myself she has problems too. I even begin to make up some fictitious dilemma to soothe my screaming ego. I bet she can’t eat a whole bag of chocolate covered pretzels while watching a Big Bang rerun.

I always lose when I play the comparison game because I judge myself against people I decide are better than me, smarter than me, wealthier, funnier, cuter. As I age I compare myself with others who can get off the floor faster or remember where they parked their car.

So why do I do it? Why do you? I know that you do…but if miraculously you don’t, don’t tell me, cuz I will compare myself to you.

Perhaps it is the grass is always greener…or the 1960’s parenting technique of comparing kids to their more successful sibling or neighbor kid in an attempt to motivate Junior to learn his spelling words.

It is a lousy motivational technique.

In my family I was the shining star. The Hero child. It was as good a role as any, I guess, but I always had to succeed. Do well. Bring home accolades. And when I did, my brother, who was the Rebel child, hated me more each day. I came to learn that being the object of comparison sucks too.

Either way we lose.

Either way we feel bad about ourselves.

The truth is we don’t know what goes on for others. What we tell ourselves is simply a story that we have make up. Some of it may be true, most of it probably is not.

How do you feel when you compare yourself to another? 
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You call me a Bitch…like it’s a bad thing…

27 years ago, in the Chicago Airport, I wanted to get home to my 6 month old son. My X and I were on a layover gone bad. The ticket agent informed us that we were not leaving any time soon since the plane to Pittsburgh was indeterminately delayed. This was not the answer I wanted to hear. I needed to get home to Landon.

I instinctively pulled myself up to my full 5-feet-10-inch height and leaned over the counter, closing the distance between myself and this unsuspecting man’s face. I informed him, in a dangerously quiet voice, tears in my eyes, that I had a son I needed to get home to and I WOULD be leaving soon. Very soon. And he was going to make it happen.

He did. He found a flight that got us home late that evening. Maybe he was glad to get me out of there. Maybe he was a dad and understood my panic. Either way he sent me home.

My X, Landon’s father, called me a Bitch for speaking to the ticket agent that way. I was infuriated by his lack of support that expressed itself in his name calling. I was also a bit ashamed of myself for acting badly to that nice man behind the ticket counter.

Two years later, when our son had a febrile seizure, the doctors insisted on doing a spinal tap. Hearing Landon’s terrified screams from the procedure room, as he was being held down by a team of nurses, I got-in-the face of another man, the doctor. Holding his white jacket lapels–mostly to steady my weak knees, I breathlessly asked if the spinal tap was absolutely necessary. He said it was. My X later told me I was (again) being a Bitch.

I did not intentionally try to be the B word. I knew the rule; If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. People wouldn’t like me if I was not nice. I was clearly aware, thanks to my moms early training, that it was my job to keep everyone happy-especially her. So I learned the act of pleasantness.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of one of my favorite books, Women Who Run with the Wolves, tells the story of being asked why she had to get so loud and angry when something negatively impacted her. She responded along the lines of, “Well, you don’t hear me when I am quiet.”

Why does an assertive woman get called a bitch? Why is standing my ground considered bitchiness?

When I reached my mid 30’s something began to change inside of me. I stopped feeling guilty for my edginess. In fact, I rather began to enjoy it. I liked speaking up, even if the other person didn’t like what I said. I didn’t stop being kind. I did stop being nice. There is a difference.

Several years into this transformation my X, once again, called me a Bitch. I don’t remember for what. I do remember thanking him for the compliment; explaining that I had been working very hard to develop this skill and I was glad he had noticed.

The world needs more bitchy women.

: )
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I can’t know what I don’t know…and I hate that!

Sometimes we just don’t know. We don’t know the best way to go in our lives, what decision will move us in a desired direction or what will keep us safe in the future.

Staying in the not-knowing is painstakingly hard. I hate it. Most of my friends do too.

I often attempt to correct this unpleasantness with a lot of figuring-out-of-things. Making pro and con lists. Getting others opinions. Imagining into the future. Anything to know.

Living in the question is an act of faith. I have to trust that I will know when I am ready to know. That takes a tremendous amount of confidence…in me. It also means I must remain open to all possibilities, not just the narrow the options I have selected so I feel more comfortable.

My new daughter-in-law was struggling with some career decisions. She wanted to know what she should do…now! She went back and forth, up and down, trying to know the right choice.

I told her that she needed to be willing to live in her question, until her answer appeared. I assured her it would.

I felt like the wise sage offering advise to the fair maiden. Advise born of 5 ½ decades of figuring out life…sometimes more successfully than others. Life takes its own time and its own route. We are best served by being willing companions to the ride.

I like knowing this.
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What do you want people not to miss about you?

Tom is always finding obscure online stories and sending them to me to read. When he asks, “What did you think of the piece I sent you,” sometimes I lie. I tell him it was good, interesting, something my life is better for knowing…I do imagesthis because I feel bad saying, “Didn’t read it.” My mom would call this a white lie. She was good at white lies. I think a lie is a lie. To be honest, sometimes I lie.

Sometimes Tom reads his latest, interesting story to me while I am making my lunch for work or getting dressed. I think he suspects my duplicity and wants to be sure I hear this one. Sometimes it’s a great story and I say, “Wow, that’s a great story, send it to me, it would make a fun blog piece.”

So this post is brought to you by way of Tom and his Wednesday morning internet article reading.

The story was about 75 year-old songwriter, Allen Toussaint, who wrote, “Working in the Coalmine” and “Southern Nights.” The article spoke of his reluctance to let people know he had finished an album because he was afraid of the critique it would face. Van Dyke Parks, a well known composer, instrumentalist and songwriter, came to visit him to support him in releasing the album. He told Allen to “Imagine you’re going to die in two weeks. What do you want people not to miss about you?”

In response to that question he wrote, “Southern Nights,” so that anyone who heard the song would know something essential about the people and the land that shaped him.

On my way to work I asked myself, out loud, I talk to myself…as shared in last weeks post, “What do I want people not to miss about me?”

My immediate answer was, “That I care.”

Sometimes too much. I have written about that.

Sometimes in odd ways. I have written about that too.

By the time I got to work I realized this blog is my album.

This is what I want you to not miss about me. I write about my humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can feel and accept yours. I am honest…even about my dishonesty, so that you can love and accept your contradictions. I let you know who I am, by telling on myself, so you don’t feel alone being more of who you are. This is how I show you I care.

Now you know!

What do you want people to not miss about you?
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A day in the mountains…

I spent yesterday in a time warp. Jena was a bridesmaid in a best-childhood-girlfriends’ wedding, along with several other lifelong friends, and Tom and I were invited to join the celebration.

Going back to the mountains is a mixed bag for me. I feel totally at home and out of place at the same time. This is how I spent the 24 years I lived there. A neighbor and a stranger.

The small church was packed. I recognized one pew full of people on the other side of the church from where Tom and I sat in folding chairs. It was filled with the neighbors and friends I had raised my kids with, and my X husband and his new wife Patty, from Boswell, PA. Really!

The ceremony these two young kids created was touching. It brought me to tears. Their words, humor and poignancy made me realize how grown up our daughters had become. (Jena if you are reading this don’t get any ideas.)The bride (and groom) had clearly designed a wedding that was uniquely their own. Everyone recognized their personalities and quirks. The groom deliberately ended his wedding vows with a preposition (they are both English buffs), to alleviate his brides insecurity that her vows wouldn’t be as good as his. “Where are your vows at?”

Instead of communion, or lighting a common candle, or pouring colored sand into a bottle, the groom poured milk into a goblet, the bride chocolate. Together they stirred it into chocolate milk. The best man provided two straws and together they drank from the same cup. There was not a dry eye, or a face without a smile, in the church.

The bride and her dad danced to a song they sang together on road trips. Not just any song, but the operatic Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli – Time to Say Goodbye. As they spun around the dance floor they sang it to one another, hitting high notes with dramatic flourish.

In his toast, her dad told funny stories. One in particular was about a phone call he got while working the late shift. She told him she had hit a bird with her car. She had killed it. But, it was still stuck in her grill. Could he please get it out when he got home? “Of course,” he said. Turned out the bird was a goose. Stuck in the grill, and the hood, in such a way that as she drove the 4 foot wing span opened and closed.

Again, not a dry eye or an unsmiling face in the room. Conjoined polarities.

At the end of the evening Tom asked me to drive home. I took the wheel without hesitation. I knew these roads. I had driven them most of my adult life. I recently told someone that I am still learning to be a city driver because I am really a country driver. City driving, with all the cars on the road, the on/off ramps that send me careening into 70 mph traffic, the street lingo rolling off natives tongues — the parkway, the crosstown blvd, the boulevard — the surprise road closures that knock me off my course, keeps my breathing shallow and my wits on end. Being in the mountains, driving in the dark was a piece of wedding cake.

Except it wasn’t. And when had it gotten THIS DARK? I couldn’t see anything outside of my headlights. At some point I noticed the road we were on was getting terribly narrow and winding. I didn’t remember this stretch of road from Ohiopyle to Chalk Hill. Where were we and how had I gotten off course?

I could hear Twilight Zone music playing, Rod Sterlings voice saying, “You have just entered another dimension.”

Tom pretended to calmly suggest I wait to find a driveway to turn around in. He was concerned that the sides of the road would be swampy. In a very small voice I told him I didn’t suspect there was going to be any driveways along this road.

And there wasn’t.

I eventually found a wider part of the road and did a K-K-K turn, knowing that to go further could lead us into the part of the mountains where no man has gone before and returned to tell the story. Dunbar.

I wound my way back up the road, totally disoriented in a completely familiar place. And let me say again, it was so damn DARK. We came to an intersection that I sat at for more than a minute, getting my bearings. (You can do that on country roads at 8:30 at night cuz you are the only one on the road.)

My wits returned, I turned right and successfully drove us home. To Pittsburgh. That is my home now. But driving past the entrance to Deer Lake, my home of 24 years, I could have just as easily turned left to go home.

Returning to a past life. That is what I did yesterday. I fell back into conversations as though I hadn’t been gone for 5 years. As though I had seen neighbors just the other day. But when they asked me, “What’s new?” how do I begin to tell them: my whole life.

Perhaps you can never go home again. Or at least not without some disorientation.

 

Membership Pledge Week

A couple of weeks ago all of my favorite radio stations held their pledge week. They drive me crazy, and they work. My guilt, my sense of doing my share, and my really wanting that super duper CD or ladies cut T shirt gift with a $120 donation-only $10 a week, you spend that much on coffee, think how well your coffee goes with NPR, pledge now by calling…- drive me to make my pledge. And gladly. They offer a great gift to me and I appreciate it.

And they gave me a great idea. Pledge week at being Boswell.

That’s right. Pledge week.

But don’t send money. (Well you can if you want too.) Send your friends. Introduce them to being Boswell. Suggest if they like it they can subscribe to receive weekly stories. Stories that will make them laugh, as well as bring them to tears. Stories they can relate to, see themselves in, comment on and be part of a conversation. They can even have their Monday morning coffee with bB. And it’s free!

Pick your favorite post, highlight the URL address (that is the long line of letters at the top of the page where the little stone is, for my technically challenged readers, I am not being smart…really) paste it in an email and send it to 10 (or more if you like) friends you think would benefit from reading bB.

If you love bB send a friend now. For the next week the universe will match your friend contribution with one of it’s own. So your donation will be doubled.

I want to increase my readership by the end of the year. Why? Because it is what bloggers do. And if I get really popular, companies will advertise with me and I will be paid for writing. That would be soooo cool. Gaining subscribers also energizes me to keep writing.

So I need your help.

And your gift for pledging friends? An embarsassing picture of me dressed as Mary Tyler Moore/That Girl/Mad Men Woman from last weekends Halloween Party.

It's my hair

It’s my hair

 
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