27 April 2005

Waxbills Winging It And The Never-ending Search For Wisdom

"Ah, as we prayed for human help; angels soundlessly, with single strides, climbed over our prostrate hearts." ~ Ranier Maria Rilke

These past two weeks since my last entry have proven to be quite challenging. I usually enjoy challenges, but the ones that hold the most lessons, the important life stuff, aren't necessarily the most fun to experience and walk through. And that's just what I've been doing, stumbling a bit, perhaps, but walking through - one day at a time or, as Anne Lamott might say, I've been taking life "Bird by Bird".

I am a bit short on time, but I wanted to get this brief post out and I plan on "filling in the blanks" later this evening when I have had more coffee and more time to collect all of those swirling thoughts flitting about my head.

Here are a few highlights since last I blogged:

I'm happy to report that Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus Waxbill are doing fine and seem to be fitting in quite well in the aviary. Their initiation hasn't been too tumultuous and I have caught them in various empty nests, resting, perhaps trying them on for size and seeing if one of them feels like home. No, we don't have any eggs from our new feathered pair, but I remain very hopeful that in time we will have little "banana and picklus" waxbills enrolled in flight lessons and trying our their new wings. I am quite certain that our pair of Canadian Inspired Waxbills are, in fact, male and female, which is a good step in the right direction. They sit together, preen each other, hang together in the plants and share their meals at the same millet stand. So far, so good. Feathers haven't been flying and that's always a good sign. They are still beautiful and seem to interact as if on "fast-forward" or rather, birds who've had too much coffee! Since I don't give my birds coffee, I would say they are simply a bit hyperactive. They're great fun to watch. I'll post a couple of new photos of them later today.

In other aviary news, we have one pair of Zebra Finches who are sitting on a clutch of four eggs, probably less than a week away from hatching and we have another pair of Zebras who are sitting tight on five eggs that were laid in the past week. In other words, should things go according to plan, within the next 3 weeks, we should have at least 8 Zebra Finch hatchlings. Mind you, we still have 6 week old babies from the last clutch who are now accomplished flyers and who's beaks are in transition from black to orange. In a few days we will be able to tell if they are male or female.

They grow up so fast!

Speaking of growing up, my house is rampant with growing pains. The column I wrote that was published in today's newspaper was probably meant more as a reminder for me than for my readers. I am working assiduously to bite my tongue, my cheek, my whatever, in order not to explode and that's not a very comfortable state to find oneself in. Not at all. I repeat "The Serenity Prayer" about a thousand times a day, in order to keep me in a prayerful state which will hopefully remind me of what I can and, just as importantly, what I can NOT change and, oh yes, Please God, the wisdom to know the difference! Wisdom is such a precious commodity but it is usually a by-product of mistakes made and lessons learned. If that IS the case, I must be stock-piling all kinds of wisdom (in it's raw, as yet unrefined state). One of these days I just might break out in a huge case of wisdom, given the landscape I am traversing just now, and I welcome the time when I will feel a little more wise and less confused than I do at this moment.

I have to close right now, but I did want to get this out, rather than keep putting off a post. I'll elaborate later. One thing about it, it's NEVER dull in this house. Right about now, dull looks pretty enticing.

Wish me well, and I'll wish the same right back to you.

Peace out!

"Single...With Children" - Published April 27, 2005

Single With Children: Avoid being hurtful when answering the big 'Why?'

Susie Parker
Publication Date: 04/27/05

If you are a divorced parent, chances are a tough question is looming in your future.

It's a question no one looks forward to, but eventually is going to pop up. And no matter how ready you may think you are to handle it, there's still a very good chance it might blindside you.

"Why did you and (insert Mom/Dad) get a divorce?"

Talk about a loaded question! Taking the Fifth Amendment may placate a judge and jury, but it doesn't work if the interrogator has your eyes and your spouse's nose and smile.

You might be given a little time to prepare because it's usually one of those "lead up to" questions. Depending on the child's age, the query may come in different forms, such as "Why don't you and Daddy live together anymore?", "Why don't you love Mommy?", or "Why did Dad move out?"

The only thing more difficult than pondering the question is giving serious consideration to your answer. Obviously, the child's age and maturity level must be considered. The answer should be delivered with sensitivity, consideration and as much gentle honesty as possible.

In particularly nasty divorces, this might seem like a rich opportunity for character assassination. As tempting as it may be to get your side of the story out, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Before you open your mouth, remember you are not simply addressing the faults of your former spouse. You also are preparing to answer an important question posed by someone you love with all your heart.

It's one thing to dredge up every horrible, unkind action your ex-wife/husband committed to your friends, parents, siblings, cable guy, meter reader and anyone else who is cornered and has no choice but to listen. It's something else entirely to paint a negative, biased and one-sided portrait of someone who is the mother or father of that child.

Indulging in the chance to get everything off your chest serves no purpose and will lead to unnecessary hurt feelings and confusion in the mind of your child.

And those bullets used in character assassination attempts more often than not have a nasty way of ricocheting. Great divides are born of this.

It may take months or even years, but eventually something more along the lines of the truth will eventually surface and, if you have depicted your former spouse in a particularly unflattering light, it's important to remember you might not look so glowing and pristine under that same harsh, flaw-revealing light.

Nothing about a divorce is easy. Hearts are bruised, and if kids are involved, the collateral damage can be devastating. While kids deserve an honest answer to the question of "what really happened?" the court proceedings are over.

Nothing is gained by making your child's other parent into someone whose faults and transgressions are so disreputable you might next be explaining what you were thinking to marry such a monster in the first place.

When the question of why the marriage broke up is posed, remember the very same thing probably will be asked of that person you used to be married to. Remember you are discussing a sensitive topic. Full disclosure may be required in a court deposition, but it's not essential OR appropriate when discussing the character of a child's mother or father.

When you sit down and answer your child's question, incorporate the Golden Rule and answer it in a way you hope your former spouse will, when his/her turn comes around.

Even if that other person takes the low road and gives an unfair, unflattering account of why things went wrong, stay on that high road.

The truth may seem like it's taking forever to come out, but it will arrive eventually and, just as we're reminded, the truth really will set you free.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at SusieWrites@ec.rr.com, write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166 or visit her diary at www.susiewrites.blogspot.com.

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11 April 2005

"I Report - You Decide: Can YOU Guess Who The REAL Freaks Are?"!

Photo "borrowed" completely and unapologetically without permission from Terry Banana Josephson. (Sorry Terry, better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission, eh?)

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
~ Emily Dickinson

Can it be mere coincidence that Emily Dickinson, by utilization of a metaphorical device, compares the concept of "hope" with the miracle of a bird? I choose to believe it's a "Godincidence". But that's just me...

And there is new life in the aviary. I have two lovely new orange-cheeked waxbills.

It has been my experience and observation that most new introductees into an aviary, fly in quite timidly and keep to themselves. Newcomers try and hide in a corner or appear unobtrusive in a ficus tree or fern, to scope out the scene and see whether the other inhabitants are friendly fowl or scowl fowl.

I know the two Owl Finches I received as a birthday present, were shy, quiet and tried really hard to "blend in" and stay out of the way, even going so far as to wait and eat after the resident zebra finches, who had been in the aviary for a full six weeks, plucked the best, tastiest, juciest meal worms. The Owl Finches wanted acceptance and clearly they didn't want to "ruffle any feathers". Only in the past couple of weeks have the Owl Finches acted as if they had passed their feathery "hazing" by the Zebra Finch Fraternity.

But these two new Orange-Cheeked Waxbills? Timid? Unobtrusive? Backward? Shy?

Four words: I DON'T THINK SO!

When Dan introduced our latest celebrity acquisitions to the aviary this past Friday Afternoon, these two birds flew in and acted as if THEY were the owners of the aviary, not simply the new kids in the flock! They flew in the face of each "old-timer" as if to say, "We're here! Let the party and games begin!". I mean, it was as if they were letting everyone, bird and human, know in no uncertain terms that they, by virtue of being the most colorful, showy and expensive, were the very reason this Aviary came into existence in the first place!

How in the world could we NOT name these two feathery, fun, mirth-makers of mischief JULIANNA BANANA and NICHOLAS PICKLUS?

After they made their maiden flight into their new home, I hovered, as all parents do when their kids visit a new playground, to see if the Zebra Finches would dive bomb them into submission and remind them of their "NKITA" (new kids in the Aviary) position in the pecking order. After all, I saw the male Zebra Finches buzz around the Owl Finches and I looked on helplessly as we saw Mr. and Mrs. Owl Finch have to endure the "not so welcome" to the neighborhood. For the first week or so, I'm pretty sure the Owls only ate after the lights were off to avoid the incessant harassment. Hundreds of times a day I would walk by and see the male Zebras bobbing and weaving circles around the timid Owl Finches, serving notice that, while membership may have it's privileges and even though everyone knows Owl Finches are way more exotic than Zebra Finches, the ticket to avian acceptance was not so easily earned.

So of course I was a little giddy and apprehensive as my two new "kids" flew in the aviary front door, hoping for safe passage and a minimum of flying feathers. I even tried to occupy the established residents with about 30 of the 1000 count meal worms that arrived the same day as the Orange Beaks joined our family. Maybe the old-timers wouldn't notice the newcomers if they were scarfing up everyone's favorite form of protein - MEALWORMS! Tell the truth, how many of you were thinking of "Ensure"?

You can just imagine how my aviary anxiety was turned to avian admiration when I saw Julianna and Nicholas fly in and take their perch, FRONT AND CENTER BABY, diving right into the bowl containing the squiggly, slimy meal worms - served up in a piece from my wedding china collection - the first time my wedding china was ever used, which will tell you that I am nothing close to a cook. I KNEW that someday I would find a use for that Noritake I registered for and own 8 place settings of - never understanding that it would take almost 25 years before it would come in handy as a feeding dish for the birds. A reminder that everything, even dusty old, forgotten wedding china, has a purpose. :-) Call me crazy, and more than a few people have, but the simple, yet elegant "Tahoe" pattern make the mealworms look extra tasty.

That crazy pair came in strutting their stuff, kicking tail feathers and taking names. You could just imagine what was really being communicated in their chirps - Here's what I overheard about an hour after the flight landed...

"Wow Julianna - that looks like a lovely Tuscany nest - doesn't it look like a great place for us to settle in?".

"It does, Nicholas, so what if there are 3 zebra finch babies being fed and nurtured in there, who are not quite ready to leave the nest - let's call the Realtor and move in STAT! Tell those babies it's fall or fly time, kiddo!".

"Get Martha Stewart on speed dial, good thing she's no longer a jail bird! It's time to decorate!".

"Two words, Nicholas. Think Pink!"

I swear, it sounded a lot like that. I have never seen Zebra Finches back away or back down but let's just say they retreated to their corners and watched - beaks wide open, feathers puffed out in an attempt to look bigger than they really are. The Orange-cheeks were so not impressed. You have to admire that.

Three days later and it's "Home, Sweet, Home". Interestingly, they have befriended the Owl Finch couple and, though it may simply be my overactive imagination, the Owls seem to behave as if they are more settled with the introduction of the newcomers. Before Friday, they still seemed to behave as if they were intruders. I think the Zebras have been told to Zip It! There's a new pecking order and (O)range comes before (Z)ebra. Get it? Got it? Good!

The only problem I can see is that it's so interesting and animated in the aviary, I am spending way too much time watching the birds and too little time writing and figuring out how to sell more work to buy more birdseed and meal worms. This is way better than The National Geographic Channel. Even my four cats seem to sense a change in the line-up.

Can nest-building be far behind? I'll keep you posted...

I think I'm going to have to petition Mr. Terry Banana-Picklus for two wish bracelets for his grandbirds. :-)

I wonder if they'll start chirping with that signature "eh" and singing "Oh Canada!"?

08 April 2005

It's About The Blessings - And Pink Wish Bracelets

"Love is like infinity: You can't have more or less infinity, and you can't compare two things to see if they're "equally infinite." Infinity just is, and that's the way I think love is, too." ~ Fred Rogers, taken from "The World According To Mister Rogers - Important Things To Remember".

I've been following the progress of a very special young lady who hails from "The Great Far North". I had been perusing some websites, trying to find some inspiration for a newspaper column that, almost five years later, still refuses to write itself. Sometimes, that is a wonderful license to catch a wave and surf the Internet, all under the guise of "research", in the most loose definition of the word.

One day while I was doing some "research", I happened upon the website of someone named "Julianna Banana". The name instantly drew me in, but it's the content, the style in which it is written - from Julianna's perspective even though the hands on the keyboard belong to her father Terry, is what keeps me coming back. Since the day I stumbled upon Miss Julianna, I have been a faithful follower and her little spot on the web instantly became one of my most favorite places.

Julianna has "sick blood" or, as those folks in white coats tend to refer to it, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, standard risk, pre-B. It's just easier to say "sick blood" but that doesn't make the treatment any easier to handle. It's tough stuff, this sick blood, but Julianna is a ray of sunshine that cancer is incapable of casting a shadow upon and it's the inimitable spirit of her family, the determination, attitude and oh yes, the irreverent sense of humor that makes this these folks the kind of people that you would want to know.

I've never failed to leave Julianna's website without reading something that inspired a smile, respect and most of the time an audible giggle. I've also dropped a few tears, because for all of the humor and spirit, there is a poignancy that reminds all of us who follow her life, of just how fragile each of us truly are.

In her book, "It's Always Something", Gilda Radner wrote that "cancer is just about the most unfunny thing in the world", and Gilda felt that it needed someone to come in and lighten things up. Julianna and her family must have heard that. This family doesn't simply "endure" life, they do exactly what we're all supposed to do - they LIVE it. With GUSTO! Even when those curve balls come at us from so many unexpected and, at times, unwelcome directions, it's still worth the price of a ticket. Although life can be messy, there's still a lot of fun to be had, chores to do, birthdays, Thanksgiving (Canada Style!), Halloween!, Christmas, Valentine's Day and of course, the Josephson Family Favorite - April Fools Day!

As I have written about previously, I recently received an aviary and it is now home to four zebra finches (2 couples - married with children), a pair of Owl Finches (married and trying to have children) and this weekend, we will be adding a pair of rowdy, rambunctious orange-cheeked wax bills. We've named the first members of our avian family after close friends and people we admire, so when it came time to think of names for our newest acquisitions, there were only two clear choices: Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus!

Yesterday, I wrote Terry (Julianna's personal assistant/typist/legal advisor/public relations contact/father) seeking permission to name my common birds after his celebrity kids. After a long, protracted conference with his dazzling daughter and savvy son, they kindly granted permission for us to use their names, with the stipulation that they would in no way be obligated to care for, clean, feed or even look at bird droppings and that any untoward behavior our new birds might exhibit could not be traced back to who we were naming them after.

The list went on and on, but after reading 30 minutes of the contract their people sent my people, well, I kind of fell asleep. I think there was something in there about royalties, Oprah guest shots, scheduling guest appearances for the kids...I mean birds, on David Letterman's "Stupid Pet Tricks" segment...It was kind of complicated and I am, lest we forget, a blond of very little brain. To be honest, the contract began looking very much like a proposed script for "Legally Blond 3 - More Pranks - More Peroxide!". I kind of got a little suspicious when the E-mail arrived in Pink. It could be a coincidence, but I'm thinking not.

Last night, before turning in, I checked Julianna's website, as I usually do to collect my smile for the day, and Julianna's rep (her father Terry), granted me permission to reprint his post in it's entirety: It's best viewed in Pink-vision.

Reprinted With Permission From Julianna's Website: Thursday, 7 April, 2005

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - Fruit, Finches & Texas

When you have cancer, there are so, so many things that just seem wrong and unfair about life. I didn’t need to actually get cancer to figure that one out. But in some ways, I think that I DID need to get cancer to realize that there are so, so many other things that are just plain wonderful about life! So, so many things I have come to appreciate thanks to my trials and tribulations over the last year and a half. It’s pretty ironic how you have to fall so low in order to see to high. Today is just one of those days that I can’t keep all these things that I have become grateful for all to myself, and for fear of bursting, I’m just going to have to share some of them with you.

Today, I am grateful for the Great State of Texas!
I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I’m going there one day. I’m actually grateful for a whole bunch of different places around the world that are just full of compassionate people. But today, I tip my Disney princesses hat to the kind-hearted folks of the lone star state. I got a pleasant surprise in the mail from there the other day. It was the audio version ‘Too Pooped To Pop,” the awesome children’s book written by The Drama Queen herelf, Samantha Pinder and her talented dad (Hint: if you follow Samantha’s link, you can get the book for yourself!). William Dufris and Red Sox great Johnny Damon’s future girlfriend Emily gave their time and expertise to take that fantastic book and bring it to audio life. And man oh man oh MAN, did William and Emily ever do a wonderful job!!! Seriously, I've heard more than my fair share of books on tape, and the job they did was absolutely top notch.

On the weekend, when things were surprisingly quiet on the banana front, dad put the audio book on for me and my stinky brother. While we were listening, dad was puttering around in the kitchen doing the dishes. He was concentrating in on the CD, so he didn't notice me sneak up on him. I pulled on his leg, looked up at him with my too-cute little brown eyes and said "Daaaad...I have cancer too." That was the very first time that I actually connected me being sick with the ‘c’ word to him before…and he did all he could not to cry. That understanding, that moment, that father-daughter connection never would have happened if not for a father-daughter writing team in Texas, a father-daughter audio production team in Maine, and the caring human spirit.

Today, I am grateful for kick-tushie counts!
Yup, I had clinic on Tuesday, and my counts keep rocking on (everybody, please look around you, find some wood and touch it for me, ok?).

Today, I am grateful for baby zebra finches!
Susie from the must-read ‘Susie Writes’ blog writes…Since he installed this aviary (my Christmas present last year), we have now had two generations of new baby zebra finches. I am pleased and proud to announce that, after waiting the appropriate amount of time to see if they were male or female and, fortunately for us, we have one of each, we have decided to name our new wax bill acquisitions - Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus! We decided to name the waxbills after your celebrity daughter and son because these waxbills are easily the most colorful of our new birds to date. Plus, the pet store manager told us they
were rambunctious, rowdy, had tons of personality and didn't take static from the other birds.

Did you hear that, Cathie? BIRDS!! Toooo cooool, baby! I hope you’re all bird lovers, because those birds are going to grow up on this website. Susie, make sure you name the stinkier bird after Nicholas.

Oh, did I mention that Suzie writes a newspaper column called “Single…With Children” for (among other) a newspaper in Amarillo, TEXAS?

Today, I am grateful for fruit, vegetables and Nonna’s home made soup!
Man, was my tummy ever sore this morning. It was bad enough that I had “The Bucket” by my little nappy spot. I thought that I was sick, but my ever-instinctive Nonna knew better. With a little TLC, the right foods, and a trip to the potty later, and I was feeling much, much better! Thank you Nonna, you always know just what to do.

Today, I am grateful for my Auntie Tammy’s aching hands!
As you probably already know, April is cancer Awareness Month (oooh man, I came this close to capitalizing the ‘c’ word…shame on me!). A reporter from my home-away-from-home, Brandon, Manitoba, chose to do a story for cancer Awareness Month on my Auntie Tammy and all those calluses and blisters that she gets from making and mailing out my Pink Wish Bracelets for me. I can’t think of a more deserving person to interview! Manitobans, you can hear it on the CBC radio news this Sunday, AM and FM (at least I THINK it’s just here in Manitoba).

Today, I am grateful for you!
My family is truly blessed to have wonderful support as we try to be ordinary through my extraordinary circumstances. I regret that I do not take the time to properly acknowledge everyone who DOES take the time to sign my guestbook, drop me an email, wear a bracelet of support for me, or even send me something in the mail. You carry me, people, and I wish I had my act together enough to return that favour to the extent that I should. You’re the ones walking the walk that I aspire too, and I’m the one sitting here soaking up the benefits from it…and there’s something quite fair about that to me. Am I any more or any less deserving of all this love than any other child fighting for a future? Not really. I’m just Julianna Banana, 4 years old from Winnipeg, Canada. And I have one rich karma account, and that is thanks to you. I’m not sure how or when I am going to be able to unleash some of that good karma back to you, but we’re a pretty schemey crew, we WILL find a way when my life isn’t so crazy. Until then, I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you all being there for me, my stinky brother and my parents! When I say “luv”, I really mean “love”.

Julianna Banana

P.S. – Thanks for the beautiful song, Andrea! In case you are interested, the song is called “Your Little Girl” by Courtney C. Patty. And you guessed it, Andrea is from the Pflugerville suburb of Austin, TEXAS.

This might be a great time for you to see if you are "Pink Wish Bracelet" material and if you qualify for membership in the S.S.P.W.B.S or "Spwubba-wubba", as we members in good standing refer to it. Should you find yourself accepted, you could find yourself posted on the super cool "PINK WALL OF FAME!" Just imagine adding that to your resume and tell me you won't find yourself on the fast track! To be honest, many people ask about my Pink Wish Bracelet and I'm pretty darn proud to say I haven't taken it off since my own Wall of Fame Induction last July. Each bracelet is a little different and mine has the word "Love" on the beads. Fortunately, I've found that anything bearing the word "love", seems to enhance and make better just about anything I wear. :-)

Check back tomorrow for the first photos of our newest aviary add-ons - who will be known as Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus! Proceeds from any offspring produced will be donated to the "Friends of Julianna Banana". Let us hope my new birds go forth and multiply!