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Wednesday, February 15, 2017


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Our little House Sparrow, Chip, died Monday morning. She was 10 years old.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the story of Chip, let me explain.

Years ago I was an aviary keeper for a public exhibit of lorikeets (that's a whole other story in itself) and I was responsible for the handfeeding and care of around 2 dozen parrots, which consisted of mostly lories and lorikeets as well as 3 macaws. I also did some work for the pet store where Gregg still works to this day, handfeeding and socializing baby parrots. I got a reputation at the "bird lady" around town and would often end up with orphaned wild birds to rescue and release.

One day, a friend of a friend found a nest of baby House Sparrows that had been blown to the ground after a storm. Only one of the babies was still alive. It didn't even have feathers yet. The guy heard about me from our mutual friend, and brought the bird to me for help.

I hand fed the little sparrow, as I had done dozens of times before, and got ready to release her, but there was a bit of a delay. Gregg and I were preparing to move that spring. I wanted to be available to offer her food for a few days once she started living outside. Oftentimes young newly released birds will hang around for a week or so, for security and food while they're learning to live in the big wide world.

Once we got to the new house, I started taking her out every day to fly around. She lived outdoors for about a week, but two nesting mockingbirds started to harass her. She would frantically land on our shoulder every time we came outside, so we starting bringing her back in to keep her safe. We thought that as soon as the mockingbirds finished nesting, she would happily adjust to life outdoors....but she didn't. She would fly around for a few minutes when we took her outside, but then would cheep and cry and every time we walked in the door she would land on our shoulders and hitch a ride back inside. After a while, it started to get cold we kept her inside where it was warm and safe. And after that first winter, we had a pet sparrow. She didn't know how to live in the wild and we didn't have the heart to try to force her.

A few years later, we moved into our current house, and Chip came with us. She had a whole bedroom to herself, with a large potted ficus tree and a window looking out onto our bird feeder. We often opened the window in the warm months, so she could have left at any time, but she never did. We didn't keep her in a cage. She lived in her ficus tree, and we kept newspaper down on the floor in her room to keep it clean.

We grew very attached to Chip over the years. (A coworker of mine named her for the sound she made as a those first days I had to take her with me to work so that I could feed her every couple of hours). In addition to the fresh seeds and water that were always available to her, she loved bread. Every single morning for years, Gregg would take a tiny piece of bread in to her room and she would hop on his hand and nibble it. We noticed over the past couple of weeks that she was slow to wake up and get moving in the morning, and it would take her a few minutes to come around. She was extraordinarily old for a House Sparrow. And on Monday morning, when Gregg went in with her morning piece of bread, he found her little lifeless body underneath her ficus tree. We both cried.

Chip as a baby.

If you've ever wondered how my blog came to be named "Sparrow Tree Journal" now you was a tribute to Chip and the tree where she lived.

We're going to miss that little bird.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unprovoked attacks

It's been quite a morning for me. I woke up feeling good and looking forward to having the day off.
I made coffee and breakfast and sat down to eat with Gregg before he had to get ready for work, and everything seemed right with the world. Then my phone started to "ping" with private messages. They were from my mom. Here's the first one:

Jennifer, do you have to use such vulgar language on Facebook,? I haven't ever known you to talk like you do now, what's wrong with you?

I had no idea what she was talking about, and told her so. I don't use "vulgar" language on Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter. She went on to say:

Yes you have and you know you do...... I've always been proud of you, but since this election, you are just really something, you need to move on.

Again, what??? I've never used vulgar language on Facebook, and I'm fairly careful about what I share on a public forum concerning the election. Granted, I'm very opposed to Donald Trump and his administration, and I occasionally share legitimate news articles about current events, but I never attack anyone and I certainly don't use foul language. So I told her, again, that I had no idea what she was talking about. And this was her response:

Well.... Fuckbuck, and such words.....

What the heck does that even mean?! (That's what I asked her). And then I suggested that someone maybe hacked into her page, or mine, and left offensive remarks.

No, I'm not hacked it's about Ivanka Trump's line of clothes, and you made a comment, you know what I'm talking about and there has been other things too. don't play dumb with me .

Well, I started to get pissed off at that point. I've never said a single thing about the current controversy over Ivanka's brand of clothes. Not one single thing. And the whole "don't play dumb with me" was just a little too much and I told her so. How dare she basically accuse me of lying over something so stupid?

It's not just today, over months you have used bad language and you know it. I'm not as stupid as you take me for. I thought I knew you better, but I don't know any more.  I have never accused you falsely, I have never been disappointed in you until I got internet and have seen things you say, I hate people seeing you talk like you do.

I went back over my Facebook page at that point, looking for something that I might have said that would have set her off, and found nothing. There are mostly pictures of the dogs, flowers, sunsets, etc. And occasionally a news article critical of Trump. And oh, yeah, and this morning I posted a "Happy Birthday Charles Darwin" meme............

So here's what I think. My parents (mostly my mom, my dad is gentle and sweet and doesn't have a mean bone in his body) are conservative Trump supporters and evangelical Christians. I get the feeling that the fact that I'm a liberal atheist is what my mom really means when she says I'm "vulgar" and that she's disappointed in me. It's not about Facebook, it's about differences in our fundamental life values. She went on and on in the same vein, though, telling me that she's ashamed of me. Although we don't have a very close relationship (she was emotionally abusive and an alcoholic when I was growing up....although thankfully the Evangelical Christian part didn't come along until later, after I had left home) that still hurt my feelings so bad. 

I've never called  her out on how ashamed of her I was growing up, or how much her behavior in those days hurt me. I decided a long time ago to forgive her and move on with my life (even though she never asked for forgiveness) and to go my own way. But even at the age of almost 42 years old, her words still have the power to hurt me so much.

This is how I finally ended our conversation today:

This is ridiculous. If you can find something specific on my Facebook page that you take issue with, I'll be glad to discuss it with you. Otherwise, I'm done with this conversation.

Because mother or not, I'm not allowing anyone to talk to me that way. I deserve better.

So as I was sitting there, still feeling stung over what had just happened, my bird Marco flew over onto the couch beside me. I absent-mindedly picked him up and out of habit went to kiss him on the beak....and he bit the @#$! out of my lower lip. I burst into tears, both from the pain in my lip and the pain in my heart.

So now I have a cut and swollen lip to go along with my bruised feelings. How's that for a nice morning?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Scenes from a morning walk

Daffodils are beginning to bloom beside my house.

Beautiful sky on a windy February day.

Yet another blooming tulip magnolia in my neighborhood.

The dogs just finished leaving "pee-mail" for their buddy Bob the German shepherd.

It's a beautiful day outside, windy and cool with lots of sunshine and big fluffy clouds. I'm still struggling a bit with depression, but time spent outdoors with Ginger and George helps.

(Also, I finally found something new I want to read! Rumer Godden is one of my very favorite authors, and I've never been able to find a copy of  her book "Black Narcissus" which was made into a movie a long time ago. Last night I typed her name into a search engine on my Nook, and several of her books are now available for download...including Black Narcissus! I'll be reading for the rest of my afternoon off!)

Have a good one!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Food for thought...

Thank you all for the wonderful, thoughtful comments on my last post. I've read through them all several times and will respond individually after I've had a little more time to mull them over. There's a lot of food for thought there.

In the meantime, here are two photos I snapped on Saturday  and wanted to share.

The tulip magnolias are already blooming (almost a month early). This tree is in my neighbor's yard. 

Sunset later that same day. This picture was taken looking out of my front door. 
I try to remind myself daily that there's beauty all around me, if I'll only take the time to look for it.

Friday, February 3, 2017


John touched on this topic in yesterday's post....the fact that many bloggers seem to be suffering from a touch of writer's block right now. I certainly am.

It's not that there's nothing to blog about, but I don't feel like talking about anything that's going on these days. Our new president is going off the rails at a pace I never dreamed possible--every single day brings some new horror. It's getting to the point that I'm beyond fear and outrage. I'm just tired. I'm taking a break from most social media right now, for my own peace of mind. It's all too much. The ugliness and hate and division in our country feels like a recipe for disaster and I just can't engage for the moment. I feel like there's no use in trying and to hell with it all. Let the country burn down around us....I thought we were better than this, but I was wrong. If this is what the USA has become, then so be it.

Everything in my personal life feels equally pointless at the moment. I'm sticking with the changes to my eating and exercise habits, and have managed to lose 6 pounds in the last two weeks, but that fact doesn't seem to bring me any joy. It just feels like a long, boring journey that I'm just beginning with a lot of long boring days left to go before I even get close to my goal. I was off work yesterday, and nothing satisfied me. I didn't feel like reading, or walking the dogs, or knitting, or anything else that usually gives me pleasure. Messing around on the internet sucks, television sucks, and housework feels like the same damn thing over and over again. Pointless. I spent some time looking through job listings and there was nothing even remotely interesting to apply for (at least nothing that I'm qualified to do) and that made me even more depressed. You know it's bad when I find myself thinking that I might as well be at work! Speaking of which, I hit my 6 year anniversary at this job the day before yesterday. I thought I'd have made my escape by now. Sigh.

Apologies to Chris at The Pedestrian Writer, I stole this from his blog.
Apathy is the only word that comes to mind when I try to describe how I'm feeling. How do you pull yourself out of it when everything feels.....pointless? Any tips for shaking this funk I'm in would be really appreciated!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Skies

This is what the sky looked like at sunrise this morning as I was leaving for work.

And this is what it looked like mid afternoon after I got off.

It's also 77°F outside today. February is starting off warm and beautiful in South Carolina! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Although I'm not a religious person, I've always believed in the principle of karma--also known as that old biblical proverb about reaping what you sow. I wanted to share with you two  amazing examples of karma that have happened to me just this week.

First, I must tell you all that money has been tight this month at my house. Some of Gregg's aquarium clients were not open over Christmas (the schools, mainly) and so income from those places has been interrupted this month. Then I had to have oral surgery at the beginning of the month, and I had to cover $500 of that up front before my insurance kicked in to pay the rest. In an effort to not dip into our savings account, I've had to watch my spending very closely.

On Monday, Ginger and George's veterinarian posted a sad story on Facebook about a very sick little dog whose owner is elderly and cannot afford the treatment for him. They asked for help covering the cost of the treatment, and even though I only felt comfortable donating $25 under the circumstances, I did it with the thought that every little bit helps. The very next morning, a check arrived in our mailbox from one of Gregg's clients for $250....ten times what I had given!

Then yesterday while at work I got a desperate text from my friend Ronnie who moved to New York about 10 years ago. He's had a terrible run of luck lately. Right before Christmas, he lost his job, and then on New Year's Eve his boyfriend broke up with him and kicked him out of their apartment. He called me on New Year's Day, first thing in the morning, sobbing. All I could do was listen and try to be encouraging. He was temporarily sleeping on a friend's sofa and trying to figure out what to do next. I was so sad for him.

When he texted me yesterday, he said he only had literally $.76 to his name, and asked me if I could please deposit $20 or so into his bank account so he could get something to eat. I was horrified, and told him I would run by his bank's local branch after work and do it. Instead of $20, I deposited $50 for him and told him that I wished I could have done more. He was so thankful, and it made me feel good to help even though $50 isn't all that much when someone is flat broke.

When I got home, there was another check in the mail from one of Gregg's clients.....for $500. Can you believe that?! That's twice this week that I gave money I could hardly afford, and got exactly 10 times the amount back immediately.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Willpower (and the lack thereof)

I hate dieting. Not that I'm exactly "on a diet" so much as trying to make some permanent lifestyle changes to lose weight and to get healthier. And I hate it. Hate it. I'm trying to cut out excess sugar and junk food carbs, and it's harder than I thought. I smelled cookies baking in our cafĂ© at work yesterday and could have wept. Today an author who did a book signing with us on Saturday brought in a dozen doughnuts as a thank you gift and I wanted one so bad. There were chocolate doughnuts with creamy chocolate icing, and caramel iced doughnuts with tiny sugar heart-shaped sprinkles on top, and custard filled doughnuts....I didn't eat one, but instead of feeling proud of myself for abstaining, I just felt....resentful. Because for all the sacrifices I've made over the last couple of weeks, no sweets or soda or buttery croissants, drinking loads of water, and eating salads and baked sweet potatoes and lean protein, I haven't lost any weight yet. None. Nada.  And then I came home from work today and wanted nothing more after a hard day than to have a glass (or three) of wine, but that's off limits, too. I did finally decide to treat myself to a single beer, and I'm drinking it as I type this, and it's so delicious. I know I'll want a second one, but I need to stick to the one. But a tiny part of me keeps thinking "what's the point?" because I lose weight sooooo slowly and gain it so easily unless I police every bite that goes in my mouth. It's just not fair!

Somebody call the waaaambulance! Jennifer's feeling sorry for herself today!

But in all do you keep your willpower strong in the face of mediocre results and lots of temptations?

In a desperate effort to motivate myself to keep on going, I bought a giant pack of multi-colored star stickers yesterday for adding to my wall calendar each day to track my accomplishments. On a day when I eat healthy, wholesome foods all day I get a gold star. When I drink enough water, a blue star. When I surpass my 10,000 step per day target, a red one. Etc. etc. I thought adding all those stars for this week would make me feel good, but honestly, I just feel kind of silly. What normal adult uses star stickers for a reward? A caramel iced doughnut with heart sprinkles might make me happier. At least for a few minutes, before the guilt sets in. Sigh.

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With all that being said, this lunch WAS actually yummy as well as healthy!