Friday, March 21, 2014

Jackypine: Bird Lady of the North Woods

The Bird Lady of the North Woods


Some women smuggle newly acquired purses or shoes into the house — hoping the hubby won't notice another addition to the never-ending shopaholic addiction.

I smuggle 40 pound bags of sunflower seeds, stashing them in dank, murky corners of the garage.
Hi, I'm Jacqueline Pine Savage and I'm addicted to feeding birds and squirrels.
You know you've become a hopeless addict of critter-feeding when you hide the fact that you just purchased another 40 pound bag of sunflower seeds from Fleet Farm. I didn't even leave the evidence out in the open, but tucked it neatly behind the tires stored in the garage in front of my car.

"What did you buy at Fleet?" my husband asked, seeing the 4 cent gas coupon I'd deposited on the counter.

"Dog food," I replied, after a brief conversation with myself.

I can't tell him I bought bird seed because we already have a 40 pound bag. Yes, it's on sale, but he'll gripe that I already feed the birds too much and the squirrels even more. Our top squirrel count has reached 16, as they feast on the seeds on the ground beneath the feeder. I leave strategically placed piles of seed on the ground so they leave the feeder alone. I can't cluster the piles too close or the squirrels will continually fight over the stash. But I can't leave them too far apart or the discarded husks revealed by the spring melt will completely cover the back yard. And I didn't lie — I DID buy dog food, too. He just never thought to ask if I bought anything besides the dog food and I already destroyed the receipt evidence.

"I bought more dog food — it was the Lab's variety and on sale," I repeated.
"That's right," he said, oblivious to my incriminating inner monologue. "They have her brand now. Good."

"Very good," I echoed. Very good, indeed.

And he's not on Facebook, so if all my friends will just keep their mouths shut, my secret is safe.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Mother's Day Lament


A Mother’s Day Lament 
Whose bright idea was it to place the Minnesota fishing opener on Mother’s Day weekend? I long for a lovingly prepared breakfast in bed, leisurely late church service, followed by a sumptuous twenty-foot-long buffet enjoyed in the bosom of my adoring family.
            Instead, I get a cold bed because Jack went fishing at three a.m. Breakfast is dry toast lovingly prepared by our kids, whom I have to hustle to church solo, while mediating the bickering over who gets to sit in the front seat (which in the era of air bags may not be such a prime location). My buffet consists of cheese and macaroni. When Jack’s gone, I don’t have to cook.
            Some think Mother’s Day is just another opportunity for Hallmark to rake in the cash for sappy sentimental cards. Jack takes this view: “You’re not my mother. Why do I have to get you a card?” Perhaps to set a good example for our Jack Pine Savage saplings? Nonetheless, I am still expected to buy his mother a card.
            I’d like to meet the bureaucrat in the upper echelons of the Department of Natural Resources who thought he’d placate Minnesota mothers by tossing them a freebie. (Normally I’m a sucker for anything I don’t have to pay for—not this time.) “I know,” he said. “We’ll still put fishing opener on Mother’s Day weekend, but we’ll let all the little mothers fish free on Mother’s Day.” I wonder if his own mother is still speaking to him?
            I’m sorry, but that’s like playing a carnival game and winning the cracked plastic bird whistle from under the counter, when you had your heart set on the five-foot, pink, stuffed panda hanging from the marquee.
            Aren’t we worth the panda? Is one day of unadulterated worship too much to ask? Mothers are more than women who give birth to progeny. We’re the chief cooks and bottle-washers, the ones who stock up on toothpaste and toilet paper—and most importantly, the finders of things invisible to any naked eye but our own.
            I wish video technology had been invented when Jack and I got married. I’d play the vows backwards to discover the hidden message where I’d promised to love, honor, and be "The Keeper of the Stuff."
            There is one person in every household who always knows where an item can be found on any given day. Nine times out of ten, it’s the mother. I’m not a neatnik with a blueprint for a brain, but I either know exactly where to find the warranty for the bug-zapper we bought five years ago, or I can tell you two alternate locations, one of which is sure to be pay dirt.
            “Where are my keys?” Jack hollers thirty seconds before going out the door.
            “Where-did-you-put-them?” I reply in auto-replay mode. Does he think I take pleasure in hiding his stuff? Is there a sadistic joy in knowing he is totally dependent on my producing the keys so he won’t be late for work?
            His voice rises to a frenzied pitch: “They’re not there.” I wearily walk over to the counter, move aside one of the scraps of paper that he’d deposited along with his keys, and voila, there they are.
            “Just because they didn’t pop out and say ‘Here I am,’” I mutter, as he scoops them up and dashes out the door.
            This pattern repeats itself with clothes on his side of the closet, “Where’s my plaid shirt?” and condiments in the refrigerator, “Have you seen the barbecue sauce?” My personal favorite is, “Who hid the TV remote?” (I did, of course. When my last afternoon soap opera was over, I shoved it into the bon-bon box and slid it under the couch.)
            Being a fishing wife is trial enough. Don’t expect me to fish. I’m still trying to calculate how long I have to keep the leeches in the back of the refrigerator before I can justify throwing them out. Like leftovers, they’re never used again. They just take up valuable shelf space as they slowly grow fuzzy little sweaters.
            Maybe this May, when the ice goes off the lake and his thoughts turn to jigs and lures, I can finally turn the whole situation to my advantage.
            “Jackie, have you seen my tackle box?”
            “Tackle box? Gee, dear, I don’t know. Where did you put it?”
 # # #

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Gift Couch

My current couch. Why do I always gravitate toward brown? 
I don't need to match my furniture to the color of my dog, do I?

The Gift Couch

Lessons Learned in the Hand-Me-Down School of Life

           Trying to wed my husband’s and my decorating tastes would be like attempting a match between Martha Stewart and Jack London. Never the twain shall meet. Fortunately we have both a family room and a living room, so I don’t have to draw a line down one room’s center for His Side and Her Side.
            His northwoods family room runs to anything finned, furred, or feathered: duck and loon prints, old decoys, an old Schell beer can, antique shotgun shells, brass ducks, and the requisite mounted deer antlers. No ten-pointers—just a respectable collection that even includes a wimpy spike-buck.
            My civilized living room contains the piano—okay, no one plays it—our last hope of a child prodigy prefers his keyboard. In the meantime, the upright piano makes a great shelf for our family photos. An antique quilt draped across a chair, washboard propped up on the fireplace, Red Wing crock, old book collection—you get the picture.
            He watches television reclined on the couch in his lair. I sit in my mother’s antique rocking chair, reading and sipping raspberry tea. He never could comprehend my instant aversion to what I now grudgingly call our “gift couch.”
            From the moment I laid eyes on the earth-toned, brown tweedy sofa, it was dislike-at-first-sight. Forget for a moment that it perfectly complemented my beige living room carpeting. It deliberately flaunted the mud-colored effect I was desperately trying to play down. We had built and carpeted our home in 1980—the year "earth-tones" were in vogue. I foolishly bought into that fad and have been trying to minimize the damage ever since.
            Even though the second-hand couch was free—lovingly donated by someone who was getting new furniture—it would never be my favorite color. After a long two months, I learned to accept it. Rather graciously, too, I’d thought.
            “We need extra seating, it is nice and big—I can slipcover it!” I rationalized.
            I never dreamed the muddy monster was capable of reproduction. It singlehandedly spawned a perfect clone: a matching earth-toned loveseat. The truly well-meaning person thought we would appreciate a matched set.
            When the second piece was delivered and installed in my living room, it, and its evil twin, dwarfed the Americana collectibles I’d lovingly and painstakingly scrounged from flea markets and garage sales. My eyes unexpectedly filled with tears, to the surprise of my husband.
            “I hated the first one. Now I’ve got two!” I blurted, surprised by the lingering couch-hatred that still simmered below the surface. I fled the room, vowing to shuffle them to the nether regions of the downstairs family room.
            Suddenly the phrase, “Don’t look a gift couch in the mouth,” popped into my mind. In earlier days, the recipient of a "gift horse" was not supposed to pry open its jaws to inspect the teeth, in order to ascertain the age and value of said gift. It would be considered rude and ungrateful. Did this mean I had to accept these couches at face value? Ignore their dubious colors? Shop for another slipcover?
            I learned to appreciate them after they were shipped downstairs to “his room.” My living room transitioned to a new hand-me-down sectional in a light cream color. It brightened the room; it could seat half a gazillion people, and—I liked it. Really…
# # # 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Branching Out

[It was too dark to take a photo of the tree I found on the walk. Here's a local sunrise instead! ~Photo by Jodi Schwen, all rights reserved.]

Once, while taking an early-morning walk in my neighborhood, I heard a bird singing in the trees overhead. Wanting to identify the source of the birdsong, my eyes were drawn to the treetops. But instead of focusing on the colorful plumage of a north woods bird, I saw a tree. This was my usual walking route and I had passed this same tree hundreds, if not thousands, of times. For some reason I truly noticed it. Before I describe the tree and you think I've taken leave of my senses, know that I'd not been drinking anything stronger than black coffee. This tree was notable because the bottom trunk half appeared to be an oak and the top half looked like a birch.
I tried to find out that could have happened. One forester theorized that oak sprouts came up through a birch cluster and they grew together. It was later determined that it was diseased, thus causing the anomaly. Regardless of how it occurred, my morning walk hasn't been the same since. I have mulled this over and applied it to several different life lessons. The most significant at the time was our son graduating from college to become a math teacher. He definitely didn't get his math genes from me!
How often do we ask children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" When this son was young, his answer was usually, "An astronaut." We have buckets of space Legos to prove it. As a mother, I'm thankful he gravitated toward an earthbound pursuit. But even when he was preparing to graduate from high school, he still didn't plan on becoming a teacher. A career course he took in high school had directed his math interest into the private sector, so he enrolled in engineering college. A year later, after working with kids as a summer Christian camp counselor, he realized that his heart's desire was to use his math abilities to teach kids.
We don't need to plan our whole lives from start to finish. Be prepared to take a new path, branch out into new discoveries . . . try a different direction.
I know I'm still trying to figure out what I'll be when I grow up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Milkweed to Monarch

These photos show the lifecycle of last summer's mini monarch hatchery. I hope to return to this blog soon and write lengthier captions. There are many life lessons in the unseen miracle that occurs within a chrysalis.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spiders Everywhere

Yes. Spider Woman.

Some friends and I decided to dress up for Halloween at work. I wouldn't reveal my costume to my co-workers, but as a "teaser," I draped my office door in webbing and dangling spiders, as well as the front of my desk.

The "seed" for my costume was the hairnet (worn on the face) with spider inside that I talked my little sister into wearing many years ago for Halloween at elementary school.

For my costume, I added several additional adornments: more spiders inside the face net, some dangling on threads below my chin, and two speared on safety pins and inserted in my pierced ears. (I originated the safety pin earrings before the punks thought of it. When I was a waitress at Holiday Inn during the late 1970s, I wanted "new" silver earrings and wore safety pins. They became a conversation piece that generated good tips that night!)

A giant spider nestled lovingly on my left shoulder, draped in spider webs with tendrils wrapped around the fingers of my right hand. I darkened my hair with stiff spikes and also draped it with webbing. It was fun to make up my face in dramatic eyeliner and hollow-shadowed facial features. Even the false eyelashes felt like tiny spiders perching on my eyelids. Black shirt, feather boa, swishy red & black skirts, and tall black boots finished the attire.

The appropriateness of this costume was manifested on Wednesday, two days before I wore it. While I was speaking at lunch during a meeting, the woman seated next to me reached up to brush away a spider that was creepy-crawling its way across my shoulder. The same afternoon, while I was driving down the road in my car, a spider on a thread dropped down near my head and I had to bat it away.

I've never been fond of spiders, but they seem to be drawn to me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Serendipity: ". . . finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for" (Webster's Dictionary)

A truly serendipitous event doesn't come along every day.

I've always loved shopping for school supplies. Since I'm now an adult I need to call them "office supplies," but the principle is the same. Even now, back-so-school season infuses me with the nostalgia of new shoes, new notebooks, and finding the perfect box of crayons.

A few days ago, I asked my Facebook friends if anyone remembered the "Nifty" -- a binder with two holes at the top for special Nifty loose-leaf paper and a magnetic-closure compartment to hold a pencil and eraser. It was from the mid-1960s, so that gives you a clue as to my age.

Mine was brown -- boring, serviceable brown. Keep in mind, this was before they began marketing colors and designs that would appeal to children. I don't remember how I learned about the Nifty, but every elementary-aged child who was anybody had to have one.

Last weekend, a few days after posing the Nifty question to my FB friends, I was on my way home from the flea market and randomly stopped at a garage sale. There wasn't much in the sale assortment that appealed to me and I was about to leave, when I skimmed my eyes over the last table. There, atop a pile of assorted office supplies, was a distinctive black binder with the "hinge" at the top. Could it be?

It was a Nifty -- fully loaded with the special top-punched paper.

I felt God smiling. Still do.