Sparrow's Ramblings

Life how I see it from my nest on the High Plains

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Something about a truck…

I’ve been missing something lately, and it took me hearing a local band play the song “Something About a Truck” for me to figure it out.

Actually, I’ve been missing a lot of things lately, but this little something had been niggling at the very back of my consciousness for awhile. More about the other stuff later…what I have unpacked today is that I truly am a cheap date.

You see, I am a very simple girl with simple needs. I don’t dig fancy stuff, don’t care to wear make-up or curl my hair…God forbid I have to put a skirt on!

Tonight my Flirt and I are out listening to a live band in a small bar, playing pool and drinking pop. He’s playing against a guy from the next table over, and I was sitting here listening to the aforementioned song. It hit me like a ton of bricks just how much I miss driving in the country with my Flirt in his big old redneck truck. Or, the motorcycle. And there’s nothing quite like taking his Giant Dog for a walk on a quiet back road.

I miss the sunshine on my face. I miss the sound of the crickets and frogs in the sloughs, and the lovely breezes that blow in from across the fields. Winter really sucks the life out me, and makes me crave the simplest of pleasures.

Oh it’s going to be a long wait for Spring, but it’s coming… It’s coming.
I am so grateful that I can hang on to that.

There are enough simple pleasures to keep me balanced out until then, but when summer comes, and my Flirt and I can take a drive in the country, or take his Giant Dog for a walk down a country road at the end if a long day, I won’t just feel balanced out… I’ll be blissed out.

Here’s hoping you find that thing, that very simple thing, that gives you so much joy you just can’t hold it all. Blessings…


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Unpacking some stuff

Hi all…long time no blog!

I’m not sure where the last six months went, but they sure did go by in a blur, with nary a post from this little sparrow. My apologies to all for leaving you hanging. It seems that I have not only been tremendously busy, but have also struggled with some wicked writers block.

Sometimes it’s not just about feeling blocked up…I’ve been struggling with some emotions I just wasn’t quite sure what to do with, how to categorize, or how to think about them. When it came time to days when I did feel like writing, it wasn’t always the most positive things to talk about and I needed some time to try to figure out what was really going on in my head.

What’s gone on here at Sparrow’s nest during all of that time? A lot, and yet nothing. It’s been a quiet summer. I did just a little fishing, a little riding on the motorcycle with my Flirt, and spent some excellent quality time with my kids and my friends. I spent a whole lot of time trying to help Older Son get a real job, which was finally accomplished. I worked more than I should have at my two jobs, but it was a good Summer. The Fall season is proving a bit more hectic, and challenging though, which is a whole other post-full of stuff to talk about.

Something that’s come out of the woodwork lately is friends who are experiencing divorce. It started with one, and then another, and then another. The unraveling of someone’s life, especially a dear friend, is heartbreaking.  Having your life rearranged by divorce is such a traumatic injury to recover from, and it’s very hard to describe to someone how to go about trying to put it back together. In an overly simplistic analogy, it’s like unraveling a blanket you have been crocheting or knitting. When you’ve been working away a project like that for a long time, and then discover that there’s a defect, you have to unravel it and start again. Sometimes others unravel it for you. Either way, whoever is responsible for the unraveling,  your hard work has been pulled out, has become misshapen 006and now you have to begin again. There you sit with kinked up, unraveled yarn in piles around you, the warmth and comfort of a blanket you’ve been working on so diligently is now gone, and it takes effort to figure out where the next stitch goes…starting up again is slow going, but with careful consideration and thoughtfulness, it can be done. The end product won’t be the same as what you anticipated, but will be every bit as functional and lovely…maybe more so. Well, anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

You see, I think feeling like I’m becoming unraveled has been a large part of my problem these last few months. One of the big reasons I had such a hard time writing was that I am now having to unpack things from being divorced I didn’t want to deal with before. Four years later, I have people asking me for advice on how to survive the process, and I feel quite a bit like a fraud. As it happens, I am still on that road, and haven’t reached anything close to the end.

I discovered just last night that I am not done on this journey of recovery. What made me realize this was Parents Night at Younger Son’s last home football game. Ever. He’s a Senior this year, and the parents of Seniors get recognized for all of the time, effort, money and hardship that goes into supporting a child in the local football program (which my Ex really hasn’t had to experience. Ouch…did I just say that out loud?). As such, I was required to stand with my Ex on the field, and step forward when our names were called on Younger’s behalf.  Until that moment, I didn’t realize how much I haven’t progressed or evolved. I have a very difficult time speaking to my Ex, and don’t care much for looking him in the eye, even though I haven’t done him wrong at all. He will try to engage me in trite small talk for the sake of appearances, but I have a difficult time responding with more than a word or two. During the time I endured spending on the field with him,  I realized that I still carry around a giant open wound that hasn’t healed. I’m not sure how to reduce said injury, but I think that acknowledging it gets me going in the right direction. More on that later.

Something else that has plagued me a bit is the discovery that I have been experiencing early menopause. That’s right…this old lady has hit that time of life at the ripe old age of almost 45. The rough part about that is how I am feeling quite maudlin and weepy all the time. Hormone imbalance, coupled with anticipatory empty nest syndrome, is quite a ride, but I keep telling myself to not borrow trouble that hasn’t manifested. My worry-wort self has been pretty active, and it’s time to shut that down and just live for today the best I can.

light-beamOne of the best things I can do for myself is to get back on the blogging bandwagon. I do so much better when I write, as I make myself find something positive to write about. Time to get my Pollyanna on, and get back in the groove. I’m ready to get out of the rut I’ve been in, and exude some positivity and sunshine.

Here’s hoping that you can see to get out of the ruts you fall into, and that you can find the sunshine behind the clouds. Keep looking up…the clouds move out of the way sooner or later.

Blessings all!


Confessions of a blessing junkie

Over time you, my Faithful Readers, have heard me blather on about blessings. Well, now it’s confession time.

Hi. My name is Sparrow, and I’m not just a blessing blatherer – I’ve become a junkie.

I’ve made such a habit of collecting even the smallest of blessings that I can’t stop. That’s right…I get my jollies from taking notice of neat/sweet/nice/peaceful/happy/joyful things and hoarding them093 away for enjoyment when things get bleak. My brain is riddled with things like smiling babies, cool breezes on hot days, and the heat my cat generates when he cuddles up to me during a nap.

What’s the smallest blessing? Who knows, but whatever it is, it’s still worth tucking away so you can pull it out later on so you have something to light your way back to sanity when times get dark.

Here’s wishing that you all suffer from the same affliction, and that  you are able to scoop up the smallest of blessings without a blink. I hope that these small blessings help keep the darkness at bay on bad days, and give you lots of warm fuzzies when you need them.


Getting my way on Mother’s Day

Greetings all,

First, let me wish all of you Mothers in the blogosphere a very happy Mother’s Day!

I’m being selfish with my time today, because I can get away with it. Mother’s Day, much like a birthday, is a good excuse to gather with family and friends, eat good food and enjoy each others company. It’s not necessarily my favorite holiday, as that slot has been occupied for a very long time by Thanksgiving, but it does have it’s good points. Top on the list of Mother’s Day’s good points is that I get to say what goes.

Here’s my list of things I want today… and by golly, I’m going to get all of it.

1. I want to spend time on my blog (check…mission accomplished!). I get precious little time to come out here anymore, to write or to read my favorite blogs. Today, I get to spend time here. Yes!

2. I want to cook lasagna from scratch today. I love to cook, and don’t get a chance to very often. I have invited my parents over for supper tonight, and when I told Mom what was on the menu, she tried to tell me I should buy a frozen lasagna instead of making it from scratch. I was surprised at how I almost came completely unhinged. I know her heart was in the right place – she didn’t want me to put too much effort into cooking dinner on Mother’s Day. She just doesn’t understand how much like to cook, and how deprived I am in that department. That’s ok… I’ll get my way in the end.

3. I want asparagus. (Demanding wench, aren’t I?) I haven’t had asparagus in years because my picky children won’t eat it, and it really doesn’t pay me to buy it if I am the only one that likes it. Today, it’s just too bad for everyone else that doesn’t like it. I. Will. Have. My. Asparagus! In fact, I have a lovely new recipe that I found on Pinterest for roasted asparagus with olive oil and thyme. I can’t wait!

4. I want to clean my house. The boys are generally pretty good about helping out around the house, but their idea of clean and my idea of clean are galaxies apart. I’ve spent such precious little time at home lately that what little I am able to do gets undone pretty quickly. Today, that gets corrected, even to the point of scrubbing out the fridge. I think something died in there, and is crying out for a decent burial. Argh!

5. I want to spend time in my yard. Spring finally did make it to North Dakota, and there hasn’t been a snowflake in sight for a good three weeks. I think Winter is finally gone for good this year, but I’ll leave my collection of snow shovels out until June 1, because I am just that superstitious about that sort of thing. My yard needs a good raking, and my strawberry/kitchen garden needs to be weeded. There are lots of plants returning from last year, but the grass is trying to overtake them. Time to get out the gloves and open a can of whoop-ass on that nasty invader.

There it is…my top five demands for today, in all of their glorious depravity. Like I said, today I get what I want, and no one best get in my way…or else! ;)

Lilacs half bloomed on May 23rd 2010

Here’s hoping all of you Moms in the blogosphere get exactly what you want, how you want it, and when. More importantly, I hope you have a lovely day with your families and friends.

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Aunt Salley Cookies…a recipe from happy times

Hi all…it’s been a long time.

Writer’s block has had me in its crusty iron grip, when I’ve tried to blog in between other things. I finally decided just to suck it up and get back on the blogging band wagon by posting a recipe I thought I’d lost. Here is as good a place to store it as any, so I’ll put it here not only for preservation’s sake, but also because it’s an amazing recipe I remember well from my childhood.

This recipe comes from the kitchen of my Aunty B, who I have blogged of once before. She had a way with food that made it feel like you were getting hugged when you sat down to her table, whether you were there for a big meal, or just visiting and being treated to some of these fabulous cookies. The interesting thing about these cookies is that they are rolled out, and a Spam can is used as the cookie cutter.

I haven’t ever attempted to make these myself, but it’s my plan to give it a try in the near future. First thing I’ll need to do is buy some Spam! When I do get around to making these, I’ll come back and update this post with a picture.

1 C sugar
1 C butter or oleo (margarine)
2 eggs (beaten)
2 tsp cream of tartar
4 tsp soda
5 C flour
1/2 C molasses
1 C sour milk or buttermilk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
Mix all together and chill in refrigerator on our. Roll out and cut with Spam can. Bake 10-12 mins in 350 oven. When cool, frost.

1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 tsp vinegar
Boil to medium ball stage and add 2 well-beaten egg whites, then add 12 marshmallows cut up or 1 c miniature marshmallows.

Special instructions: Share liberally with friends and family. Enjoy!


Cat Herding Rule #2 – Avoid Scope Creep

Let me first begin by saying that I am guilty. I have let meetings get out of hand and I have had to learn how to run meetings the hard way. Scope creep is something that I have to consciously, and constantly, be aware of needing to avoid at all times.

So, what is scope creep? It is not a guy who hangs out in the mouthwash isle too much.

Scope creep happens when a group doesn’t stay on task, and allows themselves to get entangled in details outside the original parameters of a given project. That’s one definition. What that means in regular English is that scope creep is ADHD in a group format. If allowed to run unchecked, nothing of value will get accomplished except to blow peripheral issues way out of proportion.

Something I have witnessed is that scope creep can skew a project way out of shape in under a minute. Here’s an example of a meeting where scope creep runs away with itself:

Susie: Good morning everyone, thanks so much to joining us today to discuss Cat Herding 101. Today’s topic will be how to provide structure in a project.

Bob: Herding cats sounds like fun, Susie, but what about dogs? Dogs have way more personality…

Diane: I like my hamster better. They take up less room and are easier to keep penned up, so don’t need any herding.

Ralph: I don’t know why we have to talk about herding cats, they sleep most of the time anyway.

I have literally been in meetings where the discussion got out of control this quickly, and the meeting facilitator didn’t do a very good job of making sure everyone stayed on task. There are a few things that one can do to keep the meeting on track and stay focused on the topic at hand:

1. Provide an agenda giving some details about the topic to help get the group started with what needs to be accomplished.

2. Begin the meeting by sharing your expectations about what will be discussed, and how much time the group has to get everything accomplished.

3. Everyone’s time is important. Make sure that the meeting has a purpose and get it accomplished as quickly as possible. Keep something with you that displays the time so you can make sure not to lose track. One of the things I despise most is a useless meeting, and especially if it goes on for an hour and nothing is really accomplished.

4. The instant someone gets off topic, drag the group back to center. You don’t have to be rude about it…. be kind, be funny, but be insistent that the group needs to focus.

5. When a topic pops up that is peripheral to the purpose of the meeting, but still needs to be talked about, form a “parking lot”.  A parking lot is a list of things that come out of the meeting that need attention, but aren’t necessary to accomplishing the task set before the group. Make a commitment to the people who bring up the topics to discuss it with them at another time soon, and then bring the group back to center.

6. Keep the group engaged in the topic by making sure to speak concisely and keep the flow of the meeting going. There’s nothing that will kill people’s attention so quickly as someone who drones on and on about the same thing several times over. Say it once, perhaps reiterate it at the end of the meeting if it’s super important, but don’t beat it to death.

7. Ask their opinions. People will better stay engaged if they can participate. This is especially important in brain storming session. Commonly the quiet ones, who might never speak up on their own, will pop out with some fantastic idea or worthwhile details when asked to share their thoughts.

8. Delegate/assign tasks to the group if possible. Just because you are the meeting facilitator it doesn’t always mean that you have to carry the lion’s share of the work. The group was formed for a purpose, and unless you as the facilitator are only there to provide information, the group needs to actively participate in the project at hand.

9. Send an email to all the attendees detailing what occurred at the meeting, and what the follow-up expectations are (who is to provide what for the next meeting).

10. Be aware that scope creep is something you must be constantly vigilant about. It can happen at every turn in your project. This is true whether you are in a work meeting, a religious meeting or just running a home improvement project. Always come back to the task at hand so you don’t get bogged down in the extra topics/situations that arise.

Well, that’s my cat herding lesson for today. Here’s hoping that your meetings run smooth, your project participants are engaged, and your project focus stays clear and uncluttered with wandering cats.

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Cat Herding Rule #1 – Provide Structure

I have been given a task at work, which is a project that will last about two years. Essentially, the whole point of this task is cat herding.  Yep, you read that right. For the next two years my biggest daily responsibility will literally feel like I am trying to get a whole group of cats to go in one direction.

In trying to get my arms wrapped around just how I am going to organize people from three different countries, via computer and phone, I have come to the conclusion that the first thing I need here is structure. Well, let me rephrase that. My Cats at Work are the ones that need structure, so I will provide it.

You might ask, why would I compare cats and people so flippantly? Cats are interesting creatures in that they have ideas. Sometimes if you look carefully into their eyes, you can see the gears turning. Let’s use my real cat, Harley,  as an example:

harley 029

Harley, who is thinking naughty thoughts

As you can see in this picture to the left, Harley has some thoughts rolling around in his head that probably add up to no good. Frequently he will look at me, and I know that he’s got ideas about something. The other day he took a nice long look at Older Son’s new girlfriend, as though she looked tasty. Luckily, I snatched him up just before he pounced. Needless to say, he spent the rest of the evening in the bathroom, in “time out”, to make sure he didn’t try it again while she was there.

Harley reminds me of people at work who have too much time on their hands, so much so that they have nothing else to do but think up ways to make more work for other people. Yeah…that doesn’t work for me.


Georgette, who didn’t have a naughty bone in her body

I had another cat once, Georgette, who was a sweetheart and never caused us a bit of grief. Well, very seldom anyway. The only problem we ever had with her is that she had a penchant for eating plastic Easter grass, and anything that looked like it. The problem with Easter grass, and most anything that looks like it, is that it doesn’t digest. The net result is that you end up with a cat trailing “processed” Easter grass behind them through the house.   You’ve not lived until you have chased a cat up and down a flight of stairs three times in a row, trying to catch her because she’s trailing Easter grass from her backside.

Some people at work remind me very much of Georgette in that they mean no harm, but don’t know what they are doing and make a large mess while others trail after them trying to clean it up.

You get my point. People have ideas, and most times they don’t mesh with what other people in the group want/need/think they need, etc. The end result is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and nothing is getting accomplished.

I think the first rule of herding cats has got to be that structure needs to not only be provided, but also adhered to. It will be my job to crack the proverbial whip and get all of these cats going in the same direction, rather than each chasing their own catnip mouse into corners where random ideas propagate like rabbits.

Not that having ideas is bad, but this group needs to THINK about what they bring to the table for discussion and make sure it is actually with in the scope of the project. Scope creep is rampant, but that is something I’ll expound on in another post.

Here’s hoping that the cats, and the people, in your life stay out of the real and proverbial Easter grass. Have a fabulous weekend!



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