For the Birds . . .

Or perhaps this post should be called, NOT for the birds. This past weekend I planted orange mint and oregano in my window boxes. By yesterday the majority of the mint was gone; plucked by my feathered neighbors for their nests (I assume it was for nests, since I don’t think birds eat plants, though I am in no way an Ornithologist.)

One of my main draws to city living was the lack of yard maintenance. That being said, I love having a few plants around, especially herbs for cooking (and cocktails). One of the most surprising things I have learned in my foray into urban gardening is that animals still present a challenge to your “crops.” I grew up in a rural area and was familiar with the frequent occurence of waking to find lettuce nibbled by rabbits, entire garden crops obliterated by groundhogs or fruit trees snacked on by deer. Naively, I never thought once about herbs plucked by birds or flowers dug up by squirrels.

A couple of years ago I thought I had run across the perfect solution for stopping my plucky little friends: shiny things. Apparently birds see light reflected off a reflective object, think it is fire and move along. I bought a couple pinwheels and stuck them in my planter boxes. Shiny and spinning, that had to look like a raging bonfire to the birds – score! And it did actually work. So when I noticed that my mint was disappearing I thought I would try the same trick, but did not happen to have a pinwheel just lying around (silly, me). So I dug into an old craft box and found some glittery gold and red pipe cleaners. I twisted these into spirals and stuck them near the mint – brilliant!

Or maybe not so much . . . since I came home to find more mint leaves missing. Either the birds in my neighborhood are exceptionly smart or their love of a citrus-y mint-y smelling nest far exceeds fear of fire. So I guess this spring I’ll just have to enjoy my iced tea plain and my juleps mint-less while I think of little bird babies hatching out into a lovely fragrant nest.

Or perhaps, since they are so smart, I could just leave a tiny contract in the windowbox: half for you guys and half for me – deal? Come on guys, I’ll throw in some birdseed . . .

“Family”

This past weekend I visited my hometown; my parents, grandparents and one of my oldest friends.  Oldest meaning length of friendship, obviously, not her age.  This is a friend I grew up with.  Caught toads with.  Attempted to dress kittens in doll clothes with.  Danced the Nutcracker in the living room with.  She’s one of several friends who are like family.

I learned early on that there are two kinds of family; the one we are born into and the one we choose.  I grew up calling two sets of my parent’s close friends aunt and uncle.  One of their daughters is still an extremely close friend today (Pictured above – circa late 70’s early 80’s.  She’s rockin’ the smile, me the shocked open mouth.)  Visiting with these “aunts,” “uncles” and “cousins” feels like coming home.  It’s easy and peaceful and comfortable.

I am grateful that I get along exceedingly well with my biological family, and my married into family.  This is something I try hard not to take for granted, because it is a luxury that so many people do not have.  I find myself hoping that anyone without this luxury has chosen for themselves a loving and supportive “family.” 

After all, it’s  things like celebrating  accomplishments and comforting broken hearts that really connect us.  And we can certainly share these things whether we share the same eye color, straight nose and tiny divit in our chin, or not.

For the Love of Libraries

Happy National Library Week! You did know it was National Library Week, didn’t you? I personally have had it marked on my calendar all year; in no way did I accidentally run across this fact on NPR a couple days ago . . .

Okay, so I may not have known something as awesome as National Library Week was happening as I laid my head on the pillow on Sunday night, but as soon as I found out I knew I had to celebrate.

My love affair with libraries started very, very early. From my early childhood until his retirement two years ago my father was an elementary school librarian. I spent many summer days in his library, shelving books, creating bulletin boards or curled up in the corner pulling one Babysitter’s Club book after another off the shelf. (This was the reading equivalent of watching a whole series of shows on DVR, no need to wait to check out the next installment!)

In high school I discovered the Alderman library at the University of Virginia, with its marble lobby and narrow staircased stacks. Searching for a book felt like a delightfully creepy adventure. And finding it was like finding buried treasure.

A few years later in college I volunteered to shelve books at the local elementary school library. At the time I just thought of it as a desire to volunteer. In retrospect, those hours spent in a place that had been my second home throughout childhood probably kept my freshman homesickness at bay.

And then, the pinnacle of all library experiences, as a graduate student I had access to . . . the Graduate Reading Room. Located on the top floor of the library and requiring a swipe of your student id to get in, it was like a private club for library lovers (or you know, a really, really quiet place to read – but I prefer my version).

So a big “happy library week” to everyone out there who keeps our libraries running. The helpful librarians who plan programming and order books and likely do countless things we know nothing about. The maintenance people who keep them clean and functional. And, of course, another heartfelt celebratory greeting to anyone else like me who counts their hours spent in libraries among the most formative of their experiences.

*image from: www.ala.org

Accomplishments, In No Particular Order

Doing a little spring cleaning of the home office I decided to take a picture of the stack of papers above, before I shredded them.  Said stack of papers is a draft of a novel I wrote  and I’m not shredding them for any angst-y dramatic book will never be published reason (in fact I rather hope it will), I am simply not a clutter-y person and it’s been there long enough.  But I took a picture, because it is impressive.  It is 350+ pages of my words, my thoughts and my creations.  I look at it and I feel really great about what I accomplished.

This made me think about other things that make me feel good about myself.  Big, small, in-between, and pictured above from left to right:

1.  Planning a fun trip to New York with friends to celebrate my husband’s birthday

2.  The above mentioned novel

3.  Keeping the plants on my patio alive

4.  A happy marriage

5.  Finishing my Master’s Degree (finally)

These are the things that make me sit up a little taller and smile a little wider today.  So what are your things?  Seriously, what are you particularly proud of these days?  Share your success in the comments below: