MMM: Bird on a Fire

Mostly Madison Mondays – a howdoyoudo from my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin

Yesterday morning’s respite beckoned a return to Pheasant Branch Conservancy, the same park with The Owl Tree, only to the other side.  I don’t know if that’s even true – I just park the car and get out – but it feels like a different park entirely back behind Copp’s, The Prairie Cafe et al.  I’ve been here more times than to the owl side but yesterday it felt foreign.  Maybe it’s because I’m alone, but it’s probably because everything was recently burnt to the ground.

Bird on a Fire

There was a heavy rain last night so it was damp and chilly.  Coupled with the surrounding embers, the whole scene felt distinctively and bizarrely autumnal.

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

Slash-and-burn, is that what they call this process?  A fire so controlled it burns around piles of wood.

Bird on a Fire

I would very much like to see a fire being managed: “Burn this wood but not that wood.”  “And stop when I tell you to stop.” Who controls fire?  How can I get a ticket to that show?

Bird on a Fire

It was even politely escorted around the birdhouses.

Bird on a Fire

That’s the tease of this side of Pheasant Branch – you hear birds everywhere but all you see is open space and faraway flocks.

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

When you hear so much but see so little, your mind plays tricks.  At first glance I wondered why these birds were hanging upside down from their branch:

Bird on a Fire

Then I let myself believe I had stumbled upon a giant crane or heron …

Bird on a Fire

only to discover a trespasser’s long-forgotten shirt.

Bird on a Fire

My 300mm lens did little to stem the crazy, but I did manage to catch a common robin, no offense to the robin.

Bird on a Fire

As I traversed back up the trail towards the parking lot, I noticed several birds scampering about the blackened brambles, pecking here and there.  One bird caught my eye because he appeared as brown and as ashy as the ground and with my mind and vision akimbo, I thought it was a burnt robin, a soot-covered bird!  A Robin-Phoenix if you will.  BEHOLD THE ROBIN-PHOENIX!

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

No.  My Audubon app told me to CTFD, what I was looking at was a male Brown-Headed Cowbird.  The female Brown-Headed Cowbird was busy committing ornithcide (my word):

“When a cowbird lays an egg, it usually tosses a host egg out of the nest. Many hosts don’t seem to notice the replacement, and when they do, if they try to toss out the cowbird’s huge egg with their relatively tiny bill, they sometimes scratch or pierce their own eggs. Also, as Irby Lovette notes in “Extortion Rackets and Egg-Farming by Cowbirds” (Spring 2008 BirdScope Online), when a host bird does remove a cowbird egg, the cowbird may return to destroy the remaining eggs.

Each time a songbird returns to its nest, it feeds the baby with the widest gape, which normally is the hungriest baby. If the cowbird is larger than the other nestlings, it gets the lion’s share. Some host birds may successfully raise both a cowbird and one or two of their own, but in some species, the cowbird is almost always the only survivor.” – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It take a village, my friends.  It takes a village.

Cowbird. Cow. Bird.

Until next time, I bid you a fond farewell from Pheasant Branch and to my sanity.  Ka-kaaaaaw!

The Saddest Thing I Saw All Week

Sick Sick

Look at that poor boy.  My sweet baby.  Totes legit sick (unlike that nonsense Sick Day from before) since Wednesday night.  He’s home from school and even though Monday starts Spring Break, I’m not losing my mind about it.  Here, let me clear a space for that trophy.

Meanwhile, Farrah Star has no idea what’s going on, bless her heart.


Health and wellness to you, Dear Readers.  Happy Friday.




Holding Back the Years

And so it begins . . .

Despite being gifted three barrettes upon Farrah Star’s birth, it never occurred to me to use them.
- despite constantly smoothing and sweeping her hair across her forehead and out of her eyes
- despite thinking about cutting her hair everyday

The kids were in our friends’ minivan this weekend and Seth, father of Nida and Nola, found a clip on the floor and swooooped it right into Farrah’s hair and just like that –  the wonderful world of accessories entered her life.  I bought a dozen more from Target this very  morning.

I have no desire to dress up my children – whatever that means.  While still babes-in-arms they are streamlined for efficiency – mine.  Dresses get too bulky in carriers and have to be yanked and pulled around buckles in car seats. Wide-legged pants (and dresses) are dangerous when inching up the stairs.  She can’t climb up the slide in tights.  While I like to think I make unique and charming choices on print and fabric, the rest is all about freedom of moment.  I’ve also never seen a baby keep a barrette in her/his hair, a hat, a scarf, a headband – never  - so I just figured I hold on to those three barrettes until Farrah decided she wanted to wear them.  As much I dress my kids for efficiency, I am also very leery of pushing my style choices on their bodies.  You never have to wear anything you don’t want to in my house (weather permitting).

When Seth clipped in that barrette I held my breath and waited for the tug and subsequent frustrated ripping out.  It never happened.  It still hasn’t happened and she’s worn a barrette every day since.  No more forehead-sweeping, no more strand-smoothing; turns out streamlined can be as precious as a jewel-toned button.


Thanks Steph!

Being Bald: Makeup

I’ve been bald for almost a month now and I must say it’s a non-issue.  It helps that I had short hair going in to St. Baldrick’s but unless I catch myself in the mirror, I’ve totally forgotten about it.  People stare for sure but since I’m with Farrah they quickly move down to meet her smile and the awkward moment passes, adorably.  Only one stranger has asked me why I’m bald and when I told her she thanked me and referred to her own hair as “chemo curls”.  It was an unexpected and happy exchange.

One thing I trusted after shaving my head was the need to wear makeup every single day – “I have to compensate for having no hair!  How else will I be pretty?  Don’t forget earrings!”  It is hard to shake the uniform of femininity.  What I could get away with before, when I had hair, was simply no longer an option.

That lasted about two weeks.

Make-up Makeup


I enjoy make-up.  I like to play with it and prefer how I look with it painted on, but if I can’t get to it in the morning it doesn’t make me feel bad.  In fact, being bald and clean-faced has produced the opposite effect – I feel great in its purity.  I feel lighter and healthier and brighter.  It has dawned on me that this levity is what most men enjoy every single day of their lives.  Like wearing cufflinks, the simple act of shaving my head and not wearing makeup has provided profound insight into my other half.  It has opened doors and created opportunity for self-acceptance and even self-love.

On a related note, I thought for sure Arlo’s preschool friends would flip their wee lids when they saw me bald for the first time.  Ann shared how one of her son’s friends asked if she was still a girl!  I anticipated these kinds of questions and other observations but talk about a non-issue – those kids were fascinated by only one aspect of my appearance – my eye shadow.  Since I tend to wear bright colors to contrast my brown eyes, my makeup is a topic of endless curiosity with the preschool crowd.  No hair?  No problem.  BUT WHY DID YOU PAINT YOUR EYES?

Why indeed.

Thank you again for you support and encouragement throughout this process!

Listen To Your Mother – Practice, Practice, Practice!

Dear Friends and Lovers,

Listen To Your Mother is happening May 11, 3pm and I am honored to be a member of her cast as that —>
badge proudly proclaims.  Yesterday was our second and final rehearsal, held at Madison’s historic Barrymore Theater.



Hungry Podium wants to eat you.

Listen To Your Mother has been described as the “Vagina Monologues of Motherhood” but having now witnessed the power of these personal stories firsthand, I think of it more as a “Feminist Fallopian You Tube”.  We’re droppin’ truth bombs like eggs.  This cast brings heartfelt poetry, a manifesto for the ages and a retelling of a past we’ve all cycled through and survived to the Barrymore stage.



Cast in mutual admiration

Ann Imig, National Director

Madison’s own Ann Imig, National Director

Listen To Your Mother is electric and satisfying and inspiring and I am excited to share my story with you on Mother’s Day.  Please join me and all these amazing women at the Barrymore on May 11th at 3pm. Tickets are $15 on sale at, by phone at 608-241-8633 ($1.50 convenience fee), at all Barrymore outlets as well as Happy BambinoThe Century House gift shop, and Dragonfly Hot Yoga Middleton.

Here’s more from the theater:


We’ll be down here waiting for you. We’ll be waiting for you down here. We’ll be down here until it’s time to go on stage.


Hungry Refrigerator wants to eat you.


There will be plenty of refreshments available.



Our show is PG-13, just like the theater’s lobby art!




Farrah Star is the girl you want to hang with.  She is the very definition of delightful.  She loves to chat, will feed you and then probe your mouth with her fingers making sure all your teeth are accounted for.  She will eagerly taste anything you put in front of her and then spit whatever doesn’t suit her palate all over your eyelashes and in your hair, if you had any.  She will give and demand undivided attention and when she gets swept up in the moment, she will totally make out with you.  Yesterday my neighbor called her a “charmsicle”.  My greatest hope is that Farrah will want to hang out with me forever and always.  My second greatest hope is that that period of our relationship begin after a consistent and restorative nap.

Up there is Farrah wide awake at 1:45pm.  All signs are pointing to a sudden and startling shift from a 10:30am “nap” to a 2:00pm “nap”.  A little warning would have helpful but so what, I adjust.  With every change I pray – I mean sob – that there will be actual sleep under this new regime.  Is this the key?  Will an afternoon nap result in something more than 40 minutes?  Again and with feeling, *sob*

At the end of these hollow and monotonous days, I’ve been working on Farrah’s Baby Book, filling it the best-of-the-best photos from her first 12 months and all the notes I took on her charmsicle ways.  Pouring over the beauty of my babe has been a nightly balm for my bleary-eyed boredom, nothing short of a catharsis and reminder that at the end of the day, the week, the month, we not only made it through but our love has become longer, stronger and closer together.


Happy Weekend, Dear Readers. Hope you’re creating and enjoying your own proof of life.




The Wisest


The photo on the left, dated March 24, 2012, is one of the few I keep on my phone for obvious giggle and robot t-shirt reasons.

The photo on the right I took 2 years and 6 days later, or what is also known as last Sunday.

Tiedeman Pond is one of my favorite tramp-around-spots in the Madison area.  It is circled by 1/2 trail and 1/2 boardwalk and is an easy circumference for kids.  We went there Sunday to see what we could see and in addition to a dead muskrat and a live turtle, I saw two years flash before my eyes.

“The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”
― Dante Alighieri
— No Turtle Ever

alro and me turtle


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