The Kindness of Strangers

I believe the world is full of kind people. Here are four of my own memories of particularly kind people I had never met before, but who helped me nonetheless.

1. The German Dog Walker. Years ago my brother and I travelled to a small town in Germany. We managed to figure out the train from the airport to the small town, but we struggled with directions to the inn where we would be staying. This was the age before smartphones, so all we had was a written address and a map. We saw a tall, middle-aged, lanky lady walking a tall, lanky Irish Wolfhound-looking dog. We asked her if she knew how to get to the inn. She hardly spoke any English (and there was hardly any English around in general), but she motioned for us to follow her. So, dragging our suitcases behind us after a very long day of travelling, we started walking. I remember that every so often the dog would turn around and look at us, perhaps to see if we were still there and/or to keep encouraging us to follow. Well, we walked and we walked…until we arrived at the inn! The lady and the dog had walked us all the way there. To this day I wonder how much they both had to veer off their walking route in order to help us out.

2. The Museum Ladies. I was so excited to see Gunther von Hagen’s “Body Worlds” exhibit, where actual human bodies are preserved using the process of plastination. I remember there was a section of the exhibit where just the capillaries remained of animals and various body parts: they looked like 3-D objects made out of intricate, bright red webs. There was a chicken–just its capillaries remaining–and as I studied it my vision began to shrink toward a point, with darkness around the edges. I started to feel a little woozy. Next thing I knew the right side of my face felt pressed up against something, and I could hear a female voice asking me over and over, “Can you talk? Can you talk?” I opened my eyes and realized I had passed out in the middle of the museum! Two middle-aged ladies were crouched beside me, coaxing me awake. They summoned a museum staff member. I ended up being completely fine, and I still wonder why I fainted. I’m not good with blood, so maybe seeing all those capillaries was somehow subconsciously overwhelming? In any event, I’m grateful to those ladies for making sure I was okay.

3. The Coffee Man. One day I was at a coffee shop and before I could place my order, an older gentleman stepped up beside me and said, “I’m not coming on to you or anything, but can I please buy your coffee? Someone did that for me recently and I’d like to…what do they call it? Pay it forward?” I said yes and told the man that he totally made my day. And I’ve since paid it forward, too.

4. The Restaurant Couple. My husband and I were at a Greek restaurant one evening on a date, and we were just finishing up our main course when our waitress said, “You don’t have to worry about your bill. Another couple has taken care of it.” We were shocked. Complete strangers volunteered to pay for our entire dinner?! The waitress said the couple wanted to remain anonymous but we looked around, trying to decipher which couple it might have been. We never found out.

Some months later my husband and I were on another dinner date when we noticed a group of three young people at a table nearby sharing a number of appetizers. My husband looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and asked me in a hushed voice, “Should we pay for their bill?” I didn’t hesitate, remembering that anonymous couple in the Greek restaurant. “Yes!” I whispered back. The more I snuck glances at them, the more I realized they looked like students, who would probably be extra appreciative. So my husband asked our waiter to put their order on our bill, but to please keep us anonymous. The reaction from that group of young folks when the waiter told them they didn’t have to pay their bill was priceless: their mouths gaped open and they kept voicing their surprise. They all left the restaurant with huge smiles on their faces. And my husband and I did, too.

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The Little Black Kitten

When I was 12 years old my family and I lived in an old house with a carport. We had a medium-sized, roly-poly, fluffy black dog named Rascal. One spring day Rascal started whimpering at the screen door that led outside near the carport. Rascal rarely whimpered. “What is it?” I asked him. Then in between his whines I heard it.

“Meow! Meow!”

I peered through the screen door and saw, peeking up from the steps to the carport, a little black kitten face.

My heart leapt. I loved cats! Although we never had a cat of our own, I always wanted one.

I opened the screen door a crack and slid outside, blocking Rascal from charging through the door toward the poor kitten. “Hi there!” I said to the kitten in my gentlest, most sing-songy voice.

“Meow! Meow!”

The kitten trotted right up to me. I was a goner. She (he?) was the cutest little thing. Not having had much experience with cats I was a little afraid of her claws, but I pet her hesitantly and that seemed more than enough for her. She purred and leaned all her weight into the movement of my hand. She was so soft! I could hear Rascal having a conniption fit on the other side of the screen door.

I played with the kitten and talked to the kitten until it was dinner time. By then everyone in my family knew there was a kitten outside, but the intensity of my dad’s hatred of cats was such that I didn’t even bother to ask if I could bring her inside.

The next morning when we let Rascal outside to do his business, there was the little black kitten, trotting along behind him. Rascal seemed to tolerate her.

Then I remember doing my homework up in my bedroom, my mom sitting beside me, helping me. Dad wasn’t home. We heard my brother’s voice behind us say, “Look what I have!” My mom and I turned around and there was my brother, slowly walking up the stairs with the little black kitten in his arms. He was scratching the kitten’s chin. The kitten looked as if it was in heaven.

My mom scolded, “What are you doing? The kitten is going to want inside all the time now!”

Secretly I cheered my brother.

“We can’t keep it,” my mom said gruffly. But I knew through her rough exterior she thought the kitten was to-die-for cute, too.

The next day my mom made a make-shift crate and brought the kitten to the Humane Society. I tried not to think about it.

It’s almost 30 years later and I still think about that kitten. Of course she’s long gone by now. But what would we have named her? Probably something typical like Shadow or Magic or Midnight. Would she have slept on my bed? Would my dad have warmed up to her?

I hope that Shadow/Magic/Midnight ended up in a good home and had a good life.

Telephone Horror

When I was a kid growing up in the ’80s, we had a shiny, black rotary-dial phone that sat on a small table in the dining room. In the circle in the centre of the dial, underneath a plastic covering, was a small piece of paper upon which my dad had used the typewriter to type out our home phone number. (I think I still remember it: 728-0917. Back then you didn’t need to dial the three-digit area code before your number.)

One day my dad suggested that I call my grandparents. So I picked up the receiver, put it to my ear, and started dialling their number. I knew it by heart (although I can’t remember it now!). Anyway, my grandpa answered the phone. “Hello?” I heard his gentle voice say.

“Hi, Grandpa! It’s Dana.”

“Oh! Hello, pet!” (My grandparents always called my brother and I “pet.”) “Hang on while I call for Grandma.”

I could hear a shuffling sound as he put his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone to shield my ears from him calling, “Dee-Dee! It’s Dana!”

Then I started to feel a slight tickle on my bottom lip. I stuck out the tip of my tongue to lick it away.

My Grandma came on the line and we said our greetings. I started to feel the tickly feeling on my lip again. When I stuck out my tongue this time, I felt something that was not my lip.

I held the phone out from my face. There, coming out of one of the holes in the mouthpiece of the phone, was a big, fat, juicy earwig.

I held the phone out, terrified. I could hear the little voices of my grandparents chattering away, oblivious to my horror. I watched as the enormous earwig emerged farther and farther out of the hole.

I remember picking up the whole phone and running, speechless with terror, toward my dad, who was in the kitchen. He took a Kleenex and smushed the earwig. Then he took the phone and explained to my grandparents why I had been so silent.

I stood there reeling over the fact that an earwig touched my lip! I touched an earwig with my tongue! An earwig CAME OUT OF THE PHONE!

After my dad hung up, he unscrewed the mouthpiece and then basically took the whole phone apart. There was no evidence whatsoever that an earwig had been in there. And most importantly, that was the only earwig that had been in there.

So when I see old, black, rotary phones, they remind me of earwigs.

The woman who gave away her coat

I used to volunteer as a Friendly Visitor for the elderly. I was matched with a lady named Jesse and I was to visit her for a couple of hours each week. Jesse lived with her son’s family and they were concerned that she would feel lonely with their busy work schedules. So they signed her up for the Friendly Visitor program. I remember I visited her every Thursday afternoon.

Jesse was a delight. Her eyes had a sparkle that bespoke a sharp and intelligent mind. She was tiny with the typical older-lady short, silver, curly hair, and she was always well-coiffed when I saw her. When she laughed she threw her head back with a wide, open-mouthed, joyous cackle.

We often went out on excursions on our Thursday afternoons: walks around different parts of the city, Tim Horton’s for a tea and a donut, and even a pottery show. I remember one Tim Horton’s visit in particular when Jesse ordered a powdered jellied donut: she had a ring of icing sugar around her mouth and a dusting of icing sugar on her chin. She took slow but huge bites, and, well, I’ve never seen anyone enjoy a donut so much.

One spring day I thought it would be a good idea to take Jesse for a walk in her wheelchair on a nearby trail in the woods. The wheels of her wheelchair became so stuck in the mud that I thought we’d have to spend the night out there. Jesse, always a good sport, just laughed her endearing cackly laugh. (We eventually became unstuck. Eventually.)

At one point I was going away on a trip and before I left, Jesse gave me a slim brown box wrapped in a green bow. “Here, this is for you for your trip,” she told me. “Open it when you are packing.” When I got home and opened the box, out fell two enormous pairs of…underwear. Travel underwear, apparently. They were so big, there was no way I could wear them. It’s still the most hilarious gift I’ve ever received.

Several years later, Jesse’s health began to fail. Near the end she was bedridden but I would visit her at home. Often she would fall asleep. She ended up in the hospital and each time I tried to visit her, either she was sleeping or she was being tended to and I had to come back later. Then I got a phone call from her daughter-in-law, telling me Jesse had passed away. I went to Jesse’s funeral, which was a small but intimate affair. I had known Jesse was a schoolteacher, and they had on display multitudes of letters from her students and photos from her teaching days. After reading the letters and seeing the pictures, it was obvious Jesse was a delight while she was a teacher, too.

Her 20-year-old grandson, Mark, gave the eulogy. He told a story about when he was 16 and out one night with friends, got into a fender-bender, and was terrified of how his father would react. Jesse was living with the family, and she was awake when Mark came home and he told her what had happened. Mark said Jesse stayed up all night so that she would be awake when Mark’s father woke up, so she could ensure that Mark didn’t get into too much trouble.

Then Mark told a story about when Jesse was a teacher. There was a small child in her class and Jesse knew the child’s family was very poor. On one particularly cold day, the child showed up at school without a coat. Jesse asked the child where his coat was and he said, “I don’t have one.” Even though Jesse was rather poor herself, she apparently gave the child her coat, no questions asked.

Jesse never told me about staying up all night for Mark, or about giving away her coat. Or about all the kind words her students said about her in their letters. And I know she was too humble to. I was surprised to hear about her generosity, but in hindsight, I was not surprised at all.

I still miss my Thursday afternoons with Jesse. I haven’t volunteered as a Friendly Visitor since Jesse’s passing, mostly because life has become quite busy with two children of my own. But also because I still feel a pang of sorrow that Jesse is gone.

Maybe I’ll treat myself to a powdered jelly donut.

My Emotional World, Decade by Decade

Here is another fantastic writing prompt from my husband. I’ll try to remember what kinds of things were going through my head, decade by decade…

Decade One: 10 Years Old

Context: When I was 10 years old I was in Grade 5, in Mr. Corey’s Grade 5/6 split class. Mr. Corey had our desks arranged in circles with a computer in the middle of each circle (Commodore 64s!). I remember one of my favourite projects in his class was to make a little book of short stories. We would type our stories into the computer, print them out with the dot-matrix printer, paste them onto glossy paper (we could choose the colour), and then design the cardboard cover. When we were done he had the covers laminated. I was also a book worm at that point, reading all kinds of different books and drooling whenever the Scholastic Book fair came to our school. I think this was around the time I was obsessed with horses and My Little Pony. I wanted to be a palaeontologist or a zoologist when I grew up.

Emotions: I remember being in my own little dream-world most of the time, when I wasn’t concentrating on school work or playing with my small group of friends. I would make up worlds which usually included winged horses or unicorns. From what I remember the worlds were usually forest-based and fairytale-like. I guess the word that comes to mind for this decade is whimsy or dreamy. I was a bit on the chubby side and was self-conscious about that. I was also receiving a weekly allowance and I remember saving up for specific toys. I would obsess about whatever toy it was but I noticed that the more time that passed, the more the obsession would wane. When I discovered something that I wanted to buy I would tell myself, “Wait a couple of days and see how you feel about it then.” Nine times out of ten I realized that it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have it.

Decade Two: 20 Years Old

Context: If my calculations are correct, I would have just started my undergraduate degree in university. At some point in high school I realized I didn’t want to dig up dinosaur bones any longer and the thought of being a zoologist, for some reason I can’t remember, fizzled. For my university major I originally chose to study biotechnology, since I was good at science in high school and I rather liked it. The funny thing was is that I didn’t have a super clear understanding of what biotechnology is–I knew it had something to do with biology, chemistry, and genetics, all subjects I had been good at. And I knew there was an applied aspect to it, too. (Looking back I obviously should have done more research!) Anyway, my university courses kicked my butt. I was so used to receiving grades in the range of 80-99% that I was terrified when I discovered I was barely passing. And I didn’t really like the science courses, either. I was freaking out. So I sat back and thought, “I like the sciences and the arts…how about psychology?” So I went for it. I changed my major and was much happier. But did I know what I wanted to do with my degree? Not really. Maybe a therapist?

Emotions: At this point in my life the world seemed overwhelming. So overwhelmed is a good word to describe this time in my life. Probably scared, anxious, nervous, and clueless, too! I would also say impatient, because I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking before making a decision–I just wanted to make the damn decision! I wanted a plan! The older me would have coached myself to take a breath, sit back, and consider things, including taking some time to think about who I am. Looking back I didn’t really know who I was when I was in my early 20s. All I knew was that I certainly wasn’t ready to face the world! I was a terrified little rabbit.

Decade Three: 30 Years Old

Context: I earned a Ph.D.! I was going to find a job in academia, as a professor! I would continue to study bumblebees and teach psychology courses. My career seemed all planned out, if only I could find a job…

Emotions: I was certainly feeling more self-confident, proud of my accomplishments, and a bit anxious (in a good way) for the future. I was optimistic that I would land the perfect academic career.

Decade Four: 40 Years Old

Context: Well, the academic job never materialized. After 4656734 rejection letters and a contract professor position that taught me that academia wasn’t for me, I was going contract-to-contract with university research jobs. It was certainly NOT the path I expected! And I had to do a lot of soul-searching in order to be okay with that. Through that process of self-reflection I realized that writing is my true passion, and that my goal is to one day have my own book on the shelf. So I started to take writing seriously. I go to writing conferences and classes and workshops whenever I can. I’ve been published in several children’s magazines and I have an agent (hooray!). I now have my own family: a husband, two children, and a dog.

Emotions: I have to say I’m much more at peace. My husband, kids, friends, and yes, even my dog, have taught me to keep perspective. To slow my mind down. To see the world and my situation, whatever it may be, more broadly and in context. I’ve learned that there’s much, much more to life than a career. I’m much more self-aware, in tune with my feelings (especially my gut feelings), and comfortable with myself and the path that I am on. I still lose perspective sometimes, and I still feel anxious now and then, but I try to be a friend to myself. Rather than try to shove aside my feelings and truck on, I try to ask myself, How would a friend react to my thoughts? It’s tough and I’m still learning, but I find if I take the mental energy to shift in that direction, the outcome is a much more calm and peaceful state. I’m also learning to let go of other people’s expectations. That is a big one. But I’m getting there.

Decade Five: 50 Years Old

Context: …to be continued…

Emotions: …to be continued…

7 Things I Remember Doing as a Kid

Here is a list of 7 things I remember doing as a kid. (Thank you to my husband for this writing prompt!)

1. Getting “Twister” ice cream cones with my Poppa, brother, and cousin.

As a kid we lived a few blocks away from a shop that sold “Twister” ice cream cones. They were made with super-soft ice cream that twisted around and around, tapering to the top in a swirl. You could order chocolate, vanilla, or chocolate + vanilla. If you ordered chocolate + vanilla, the flavours alternated in the twist up to the top. My Poppa would ask in his gruff voice, “Do you guys want a Twister ice cream?” And we would walk there and he would treat us. Still the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

2. Collecting caterpillars in our backyard.

We had a big tree in our backyard and we would find a lot of caterpillars around it. I mean, A LOT. Looking back, they were probably tent caterpillars that kill trees. Anyway, they were black with white, pinprick-tiny spots down their back, with a bit of (orange?) fuzz. Our mom would give my brother and I each a plastic margarine container and we would see how many we could pluck up and put in our container. I remember they felt really delicate and silky-soft, but if I thought about it too much when I picked them up I would get grossed out and drop the caterpillar and my container.

3. Smelling my Dad’s packs of pipe tobacco.

My Dad used to smoke a pipe. I loved the smell of it as a kid. I remember in the spring and summer evenings after supper he would walk us to a nearby park and on the way home, he would smoke his pipe. Sometimes we would stop at the I.D.A. Pharmacy and he would buy a pack of pipe tobacco. He would leave it on one of the shelves of the side table beside his favourite La-Z-Boy chair. Every once in a while when no one was looking I would crawl over, pick up the package, and take a big whiff of the plastic outer package.

4. Building sandcastles on the beach near my grandparents’ house because I was too afraid to swim in the water because of the sharks.

My grandparents lived in Deep River, Ontario, Canada. There are no sharks. But I was certain there was. So I stayed safely in the sand even though my parents and grandparents kept coaxing me to go into the water.

5. Getting up horrifically early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and trying to turn the big, clunking knob of the television as quietly as possible.

I don’t know what time my brother and I would get up on Saturday mornings…5:00? 5:30? But there was a show we desperately wanted to watch (and I can’t remember the name!), but sometimes for whatever reason it was preempted by “George of the Jungle.” We hated “George of the Jungle.” Did we actually ever watch “George of the Jungle”? No. But we resented it for preempting our show.

6. Anxiously awaiting the latest installment of our encyclopedia collection to arrive in the mail.

It was the 80s. There was no internet. But there were books! And encyclopedias! I loved encyclopedias. I would pore over them, cover to cover. Their glossy pages that squeaked a bit between your fingers. I LOVED it whenever we received our encyclopedia’s “Year in Review” edition. I remember the dictionaries that came with the set had a huge section at the beginning with random stuff like, “Name origins.” Some of the names had cool meanings but when I looked up my first name it simply said, “From Denmark.” Oh. Gee, thanks, Dictionary.

7. Popping the bubbles my Dad would make from the plastic from his dry-cleaned suits.

My Dad had to wear a suit to work every day. When he came home with his dry-cleaning my brother and I would gallop up the stairs to my parents’ bedroom, so that after my Dad put his freshly cleaned suits in his closet we could pop bubbles! My dad would tie a knot in the plastic sheet that covered the suits and a bubble would form at the knot. One of us would squeeze it and it would pop in our hands. Oftentimes several bubbles would form after he tied the knot, and it was fun to squeeze them and pop them all. It was kind of like hand-made bubble-wrap. My Dad would tie knot after knot, letting us pop and pop, until the plastic wrap was just a big knotty ball.

Male bumblebees as pollinators?

Ever since I worked in a bumblebee lab years ago I’ve been intrigued by male bumblebees. Male bumblebees don’t sting, they appear later in the bumblebee colony lifecycle (late summer to early fall), and they have an endearing fuzzy yellow nose, or moustache. They are also a fuzzier overall than female bumblebees.

(Bombus lucorum courtesy of Nurturing Nature: http://www.nuturing-nature.co.uk)

After they hatch, male bumblebees stay in the nest until they are mature, then they fly out into the world, find a queen bumblebee to mate with, then die. They don’t help out with “housekeeping duties,” such as keeping the nest clean and sitting on eggs to keep them warm. They don’t collect nectar and pollen and bring it back to the nest like female worker bumblebees. If they are hungry before finding a mate, male bumblebees may drink nectar from flowers for their own energy. They have no need for pollen, and in fact they don’t have the corbiculae–pollen baskets–on their back legs that female bumblebees have.

So is mating all that male bumblebees are good for?

I came across a very cool article that suggests male bumblebees might in fact be pretty good pollinators–whether they mean to be or not!

In a nutshell, pollination generally happens when pollen grains (the yellow, powdery substance from flowers) are transferred from a flower of one plant to another flower of the same type of plant. Because female bumblebees need to collect pollen and nectar for their entire colony of bumblebees, they need to visit many flowers, and so it is assumed they are better pollinators than males.

However, as the authors of the article point out, male bumblebees are more numerous in late summer and early fall, and there are still many plants that flower during that time. Do more male bumblebees than female bumblebees visit flowers in late summer/early fall?

Also, male bumblebees have more fur than female bumblebees that the pollen grains can stick to when they visit a flower. Male bumblebees don’t groom the pollen grains into pellets on their back legs like female bumblebees, meaning that there’s more loose pollen on their bodies to be transferred to the next flower they visit. Do male bumblebees therefore transfer more pollen between flowers than female bumblebees?

Finally, male bumblebees travel longer distances between flowers than female bumblebees do. As a result, maybe male bumblebees are better at long-distance pollination?

The authors of the article I read did three things. First, they counted the number of male bumblebees, female bumblebees, and queen bumblebees (all Bombus impatiens) that were on flowering plants along a hiking trail in Colorado. Second, they watched how far female and male bumblebees flew between patches of artificial flowers. Third, they assessed the pollen transfer between Brassica rapa flowers in their laboratory.

(Brassica rapa flowers, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The authors found that there was indeed an abundance of male bumblebees compared to the number of female bumblebees and queens on the flowers on the hiking trails. They also found that male bumblebees were more likely than female bumblebees to fly between patches of artificial flowers, rather than staying within a patch, when collecting nectar. Finally, they found that, compared to female bumblebees, the male bumblebees transferred more pollen between Brassica rapa flowers while they were drinking the nectar. Male bumblebees tended to spend more time at each flower (what they call a longer handling time) compared to females, too.

So it seems that male bumblebees have the ability to transfer more pollen than female bumblebees, and they can transfer the pollen at greater distances. This can compliment the pollination that occurs by the female bumblebees.

I never thought of male bumblebees as pollinators. But in hindsight, it makes complete sense. I wonder what other secrets these little guys have that are waiting to be discovered?

Reference

Ostevik, K L., Manson, J. S., & Thomson, J. D. (2010). Pollination potential of male bumble bees (Bombus impatiens): Movement patterns and pollen-transfer efficiency. Journal of Pollination Ecology, 2(4), 21-26.

Book Anxiety

I have a confession to make.

I find finishing books stressful.

When I get to the third- or second-to-last chapter, I feel a compulsion to thrust the book onto my bedside table and finish it…later.

I can’t just plow through the ending of a book. No matter how exciting or riveting the plot may be. No matter how much I might love the characters. When the remaining thickness of pages reaches slightly less than a centimetre, I simply must set the book down and put a bit of space between us.

Just for a while.

The photo above shows the typical, critical point where I divorce the book for a period of time.

I mean, I do want to finish the book. I do want to have closure, discover how the story ends, etc. I just don’t want to rush it. Like a good piece of cheesecake or pecan pie, I want to savour it. Make it last as long as possible. So I take smaller and smaller bites, pausing a bit longer between each one, until there is but a lonely little sliver left. Then, once I am mentally prepared to consume the last morsel–when I can ensure that all my senses are alert and ready to receive the experience–I place the last bite in my mouth and enjoy it. I stretch out the taste, texture, and overall experience as long as possible.

I guess I want to read the last few pages of a book when I have time. When I have time to savour it. When I know I can afford to read slowly, analyze, and drink in each word.

After all, I am saying good-bye to a friend. Collectively I have invested a lot of time with Ms./Mr. Book, so I don’t want to make our farewell in haste.

Usually the divorce lasts a few hours. Perhaps even a day. Today the divorce lasted an hour and a half: I set the book down at the second-to-last chapter to do laundry, change our sheets, take a shower…only then was I ready to say good-bye to Flavia de Luce, one of my all-time favourite characters and protagonist of Alan Bradley’s mystery series. (By my standards, an hour and a half is considered a very brief divorce. I think the brevity of this divorce had something to do with wanting to find out the solution to the murder-mystery, and the fact that I have the next instalment of the series waiting patiently for me on my shelf. So technically I wasn’t saying a complete good-bye to Flavia.)

But each time I read a book, as I get closer and closer to that less-than-a-centimetre-left thickness of pages, I start to feel mounting anxiety. A tension of, “Yes! I want to finish it,” against, “No! Stay and play a bit longer!” And I have a compulsion to place it aside and do something else.

Maybe I’m just no good with good-byes. Especially with close friends–like good, well-written books.

You know All the Light We Cannot See? Man, I divorced that book for a few days. And my favourite book, Life of Pi? Wow, I didn’t want that to end either.

And once I do finish a book, I tend to re-read the last paragraph or two over and over. To feel the climax of the anxiety of YES-IT-HAS-ENDED! And I feel loss and I feel (hopefully) satisfied and I feel sad and I feel grateful and I feel…

…like a collossal nerd.

But hey, I’m okay with that.

Bee House!

My husband and kids came home from grocery shopping with a surprise: a bee house!

I’m so excited!

The idea behind it is bees will climb inside one of the little tubes and lay their eggs. As far as I know these houses are used by solitary species of bees: bees that don’t have a colony with a queen and a bunch of sisters, but rather live on their own, gathering pollen and nectar for themselves only, and laying eggs themselves instead of a queen laying eggs.

And according to the packaging, bees that use these types of houses are non-stinging bees. I assumed solitary bees can sting but perhaps I’m wrong?

I studied bumblebees, but there are thousands of other species of bees out there. (Bumblebees won’t use this house because they tend to nest in the ground, and their nest has a communal space where the queen lays eggs and there are wax nectar storage pots. There can be upwards of 200 bumblebees in a colony, so a bee house like this would get pretty crowded!)

I’m already thinking about where to put the bee house in our backyard. Near some flowers, for sure.

Spring is on the way!

A Christmas Tradition: A Teddy Bear Finds Christmas

Every year since I was little we put up a special calendar on the first of December. It was a calendar my grandmother made.

It is the story of a little bear who couldn’t wait for Christmas so he decided to look for it. Each day in December he looks in a different spot, indicated in the calendar at the bottom. My grandmother sewed a button on every spot where the bear looks.

This little bear is pretty thorough in his search!

Anyway, today is Christmas Eve and–SPOILER ALERT!–he finally found Christmas: in the living room with all of his family.

This year my son was very diligent about moving the bear to his particular spot on the calendar each day. And it was heartwarming to hear him read the little calendar at the bottom all by himself.

As I sit and look at the calendar with a belly full of special chocolate-chip-banana-pancakes-for-breakfast, I sigh as I think that we (and the bear) made it to another Christmas Eve. All the rush and the planning and now it is simply beautiful anticipation in the air.

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a beary good night.