Swingset Chain

Ellie walked through the playground.

It had been years since she had left her old neighborhood. A lot had changed. The tire swing was no longer hanging around. It had been transformed into a planter, near the entrance of the park. The normal swings were still around, but the cement which was underneath, was now covered in wood chips.

She chose to sit at the bench under the big maple tree. Someone had hidden a makeshift bird feeder in its branches. The air was cool, but not bitter. A gentle breeze passed through the leaves of the trees, making them shift and turn in the wind, as if dancing. She was alone.

Something about visiting this old park, stirred up emotions over life and growing older. Ellie thought about the time she fell of the slide. She managed to chip her tooth. It was the second one, to the left of the center front teeth. She would still emit a slight whistle when she spoke certain words.

Ellie touched her cheek, thinking about the first time she got a kiss from her crush. There was only a few weeks left of school when it happened. The kids that noticed broke out into songs. They loudly teased her with pointed fingers and disgusted groans.

She pulled out her notebook, and began to jot down the memories that began flooding back. So much time had passed, and remembering her childhood had been so distant. Life had been filled with work, dating, traveling, and barely sleeping. It was nice to finally have a moment to rest.

When she finally felt it was time to go, Ellie paused. She gave the playground one last look over, before slinging her bag over her shoulder. She left a tiny paper crane on the bench. It was a memento for her time at the park, a place she thought she had left behind. The years had touched her. The gray hairs, like the old maple trees, were her only witnesses.

 

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Bird Song

“Let him go!” Caroline yelled. Two boys were kneeling over a bird, as a third one held the poor creature roughly by its wings. “You’ll hurt it.” Caroline looked fearful for the bird.

“That’s the point.” The boys retorted with a chuckle.

Caroline reached down to pick up the largest rock she could find, and pitched it in the boys’ direction. Her projectile weapon, unfortunately fell 3 feet from its mark, and landed a few inches away from her feet.

The boys laughed loudly, “You throw like a girl!”

The tallest of the boys stood up and glared at Caroline. “Here, catch this!” He said as he sailed the now broken-winged bird at Caroline. The poor creature cried in pain, as its wings had been mangled. The boys ran off, laughing at their handy work.

Caroline bent down to gingerly scoop up the bird. The poor feathered soul was wriggling about, with a fearful look in its eyes. “Don’t worry,” Caroline whispered softly. She took a handkerchief from her pocket, made a sling, and carefully placed the bird inside the fabric transport.

Caroline walked as quickly as she could back to her house, careful not to jostle the bird around too much. She grabbed a shoe box, and filled it with soft cotton balls from the jar on the bathroom counter. She gently laid the bird down in its new resting place.

“Let me get you some water and food. That’s the least I can do.” She took a tiny sauce dish from the kitchen cabinet, filled it with water, and placed it in a corner of the box. She managed to find some sunflower seeds, as that was the only bird-friendly snack she could think of. Caroline was worried. She didn’t want the bird to die.

Caroline rushed over to the phone in the living room, and dialed the local veterinarian, but the line was busy. Panicked, she ran back over to the box. The poor bird was fast asleep, no doubt exhausted from its earlier ordeal. “I’ll be back. Please don’t die.” Caroline whispered tearfully.

If there was anyone who might have any advice on who to call or what to do, she figured it best to call Mr. Roberts. Mr. Roberts was a docent at the nature museum. He had bird feeders throughout his yard, and occasionally would drop in her science class at school. Caroline never knew there was so much information about birds, until hearing him speak. She figured he would know what to do,  and she wanted to do to help this bird.

After pouring over the phone book frantically, she eventually found the number for the nature museum. Caroline was able to reach Mr. Roberts,  just as he was  about to leave the museum for the day. She hurriedly spattered out her tale.

She told him about the boys, the bird, and the makeshift shoe box home. Mr. Roberts was moved by Caroline’s efforts, and admonished the needless cruelty of the boys. “That bird is fortunate that you came to its rescue. Don’t worry, I will make a call to the bird rescue. They can make a pick-up for your feathered friend in the morning.” Mr. Roberts assured Caroline.

She was relieved. Caroline ran over to peek over at the bird, who was still peacefully sleeping in the box. She said a little prayer, hoping that it would survive the night.

In the morning, the telephone rang. The Blackwell Bird Rescue Society called to make sure that a 10 am pick-up would be okay. Caroline checked on the bird, who now had its eyes open, and had made use of its water for a bath. “Yes,” Caroline said to the woman on the phone, “10 am will be just fine.” She smiled with relief, that her prayers had been answered.

10 am came, and an emerald van pulled up to her house. The driver announced their presence additionally, with the beep of the horn. The vehicle had a decal reading “Blackwell Bird Rescue Society” emblazoned on its side.

“I guess this is goodbye.” Caroline said wistfully. “I’m sorry, I never got to know your name. Hopefully, these good people can help you get better, so you can fly away. My name was Caroline. I hope you don’t forget me.” She looked at the bird in the shoe box. Curiously, it seemed as if it understood what she was saying, and replied with a short chirp and a wink.

Caroline walked the box with the bird to the driver in the van. She was a friendly bookish-looking lady, with lavender glasses and a red cardigan. “I’ll take it from here dear.” she said as she packed the box gently into the van. “You did beautifully. I’m sure we will get this little one back up and flying again, real soon. Don’t worry.”

Caroline stood watch as the driver got back into the car, and slowly drove away.

 

A.M.

“Well, we were all hoping for some hot water.” Her voice fell with noticeable disappointment as she returned from the bathroom. “It’s always something in this city? Ain’t it? Damn plumbing.”

She stomped off without missing a beat. “I’ll make breakfast in a few, just let me get a cup of coffee going.” I watched as she scurried off to the kitchen. The sound of pots and pans banging around, cabinet doors opening and shutting, amid frustrated sighs caught my ear’s attention.

I couldn’t help but lay in bed. My mind was flooded with thoughts. Thoughts on my future, our future, and whether I was nothing but a disappointment that she couldn’t bear to cut ties to, just yet. Staring at the plain eggshell paint that covered the ceiling, watching the ceiling fan slowly, lulled me into a stupor.

It was a state of mind that I didn’t want to leave, as it was strangely calming, but not productive. The aroma of instant coffee wafting about the apartment shook me out of my head, and I returned back to reality. It was time to get up, I guess.

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I stretched my limbs with a yawn, and headed into the kitchen. She was already busy scrambling eggs, in that English-looking ceramic bowl we picked up from the thrift store. Cracked eggshells were littered about the counter.

“I’ll make some toast,” I said as I pulled out some English muffins, and popped them into the toaster. Rummaging through the fridge, I noticed there was only a little bit of butter left, and half a jar of apricot marmalade. “What’ll it be, butter or marmalade?” Hoping that she would let me have the pat of butter.

“I’ll just take my toast dry.” she replied evenly, as she dumped the swirl of eggs into the skillet. I didn’t know how she never managed to burn anything, ever. It was magic watching her cook. I stared transfixed, allowing myself to get lost.

“Hey, the toast is burning!” she exclaimed as she looked over her shoulder, noticing the beginning of a plume of smoke rising toward the ceiling.

“Oh crap!” I hurried over and popped the muffins out of the toaster, and braced myself to see what I could salvage. “I’ll take the more burned one.” seeking to remedy my error.

“Ok, no problem.” she said without missing a beat, as she scooped out the eggs onto two plates. “Salt and pepper?” she asked.

“You bet.” I replied with a smile. I was happy she wasn’t too upset.

We sat down at the small 3-legged table that we rescued from curb. I playfully began picking at a chip on my right side. “Remember when we found this?” I asked, hoping to start a conversation.

She sipped her coffee with a matter-of-fact look in her eyes. She looked up at me smiling, “Yes, I do.”

Today was going to be a good morning.

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10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Would Happen, Being A New Parent (to an Under 2-Year Old)

As a first time parent to a toddler, you never really fully understand the madness of why some parents behave as they do, until you become one. After flying by the seat of my pants to interpret the wants and needs of my toddler, in addition to scouring online sources for help… I came to a conclusion. Here is my list of 10 things that I never thought about as a new parent. Adults be ready for some big changes when your baby comes into your life!

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  1. You Will Need The Patience of a Saint

Really, you will. There will be moments when you are feeling worn out and depleted of all energy, and you will have to just let those dirty dishes, pile of laundry, or toys that are lying about all over just sit there for a little while. No, you are not lazy, just tired. Plus, the little one is just going to pull everything you put back into the laundry hamper, dresser drawer, or toy box out as soon as you put things away. When things become too much, just remember to breathe deeply, and that sometimes it’s okay to walk away for a little bit…from the chores, not the child. Otherwise, you might find that your adventurous toddler has discovered a new place to climb out of, onto, or something you don’t want them to stick in their mouth is their new favorite teether. Speaking of teething…

 

  1. Teething Will Happen & The Pain May Hit Their Gums, But Your Ears

Make sure you get ready to stock up on teether toys, and be open to the type of teethers that your child will really like. Your little bundle of joy may turn into a little bundle of fussing and biting. Have some sympathy, we all had to go there at some point, before we morphed into being less cute and cuddly to the adults we are now. Keep some baby-friendly pain medication on hand, and consult your pediatrician for advice and recommendations. Semi-frozen washcloths, silicone gel-filled rings, or cold pieces of carrot might do the trick, or they might not. I found that a toothbrush with very soft bristles sometimes did the trick, but then I had to watch to make sure it didn’t go for a dip in the potty.
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  1. Your Baby is an Avid Nudist & the Toilet is a Fascinating Bermuda Triangle of No Return

Who knows exactly the reason, but your toddler loves naked time. If it wasn’t enough to be naked in the bath, beware when it is diaper changing time. You figured making deals with them to let them run around without their socks on was enough. Nope. As soon as the diaper comes off, if they can, they will wiggle away from you with smiles and giggles. They will run freely throughout the halls, and if you’re really lucky, they’ve managed to grab hold of their soiled diaper waving about like a flag of sweet naked baby freedom. Make sure you keep your toilet seat down with the lid closed, or else you are going to get a fun surprise. Think toilet paper, toys, hair brushes, socks… You name it; if the toilet is accessible your toddler is going to throw things in there.

 
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  1. You Will Stock Up & Consume More Juice Boxes and Animal Crackers Than Your Toddler

Heck, you might even try to teach your little one the art of bribes and trading…offering negotiations about nap time, putting away toys, or eating their veggies for you — I mean their juice boxes and snacks. It’s not your fault those juice boxes and snacks are just so tasty. This guilty habit only started because you wanted to show your toddler how to try something new. Then again, enjoy being a kid again for a short moment, and have an animal cracker or cookie and calm down.

 

  1. Forget About That Perfect Selfie Moment

You thought that playsuit with the animal print and ears was so adorable, but your little one didn’t. If they couldn’t struggle to get out of the outfit in time, while you get your camera ready for the perfect shot, get ready. Before you can say “Cheese!” your little bundle of joy is going to either puke, have an explosive diarrhea filled diaper, or is going to break out into tears. Those perfect shots of babies in adorable outfits are made possible with the aid of a super team of photography experts on a professional set.

 

  1. You Will Get Excited About Clipping Coupons & Scoring Deals Online

Before baby came, you and your significant other enjoyed nights out on the town, and spending with reckless abandon. Sure, you saved a bit for baby to come, but you still didn’t see the value in those sale-crazy ladies and gents who get excited over couponing. Well, your lovely little one is going to need things other than just diapers, wet wipes, baby food, clothes, toys, and books. Depending on your lifestyle and the needs of your family, coupons and sourcing items on sale is going to save you much needed money. Look at it this way, with the money saved, you can put some more aside into savings or insurance plans for your child.
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  1. Always Be Prepared When Going Out

Take a cue from the Girl & Boy Scouts of America, and “Be prepared!” Not only do you want to make sure you always have diapers, wet wipes, and a change of clothes on hand when you go out with your little one, but plan ahead. Things seem to take longer when you are going out with a baby or toddler, so get ready 2 to 3 hours ahead of the time you need to leave out. Just trust me, and do it. Make sure you keep a bag or two on hand for dirty diapers or soiled clothing. Oh, and don’t forget the snacks, bring on the juice boxes, baby food pouches, and graham crackers. Isn’t having a kid great? You will be an expert in organizing your time and planning ahead before you know it.

  1. Cheerfully Accept Hand-me-Downs & Parental Advice From Those Who Have Been There

Yes, you may want your baby to be decked from head to toe in the latest fashions. However, consider this. Your baby is going to outgrow their clothes and shoes every two to three months, depending on their development and clothing quality. There is absolutely no shame in accepting gently used, clean clothing that you find acceptable for your child. If you want, you can use the clothes for making a baby quilt, rag rug, or homemade doll once they grow out of the outfits. Don’t neglect the advice of other parents who have already been where you are now. If anything, see if what they suggest works for you. They might tell you about a secret website or store that sells good quality clothes and other items for your child for the cheap. It pays to keep an open mind and be humble.
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Chamomile tea does wonders for calming down and inducing nap time for moms/dads.

  1. Naps Are Not Just For Baby Anymore

Let us give thanks for the power of naps. Nap time may be one of the few moments in your day you can catch a break from baby, and catch up on what you want to do, too. If anything, take time out to nap when your toddler is napping if you don’t want to work on chores. Naps are rejuvenating for the brain, keep you young, and leave you feeling ready to take on tasks once you awake. Many major corporations understand that workers that take a nap come back with more productivity than those who do not get this luxury. Use your time wisely, enjoy the silence, catch up on reading, or whatever those few minutes or hours you have been gifted. Thank you baby, you are an angel when you are asleep.

 

  1. Forgive Yourself & Laugh and Love Often

When you become a parent, there is no instruction manual. We all come from different backgrounds, traditions, and get varying information on the right way to parent our children. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself and your child, in order to keep up with other families does us a great disservice. Life is about learning, growing from our experiences, and living our day-to-day existence. Time is a precious commodity that we too often, take for granted. Despite our busy schedules with work, school, and juggling responsibilities at home, we must remember to breathe. We must take time to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, as parenting sometimes has a real tough learning curve. We must laugh often, as it raises our cortisol levels, boosts our immune system, and just feels good to do. Saying “I love you,” giving hugs, and using good manners establishes our values within our relationships. We must love ourselves and love our children, because a world of loved and wanted children makes a world of difference in our society.

 

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1 Reason You Must “Just Do It Now!”

Nike had it right when they decided to use the motto “Just do it.” You should just do it too!

There is a rule that there are 10,000 hours between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. We make strides in our life by tackling our larger goals piece by piece, a little at a time. You get more foundation work done by putting in 5 to 15 minutes of daily effort, versus overcompensating by throwing your all into something for long hours once a week or once a month. Try it and see!

What goals are you constantly talking about, but haven’t started yet?

Take on 2017 and make a brand new you. Learn a new skill. Travel somewhere different. Start today!

5 Reasons Taking Little Steps Toward Your Goals Leads to Greater Leaps Forward in Your Life

Sometimes a challenge or a desired goal presents itself in our lives, and the steps we must take to achieve what we want or surmount that challenge seems daunting. However, by taking small steps to get closer toward the desired outcome we want in life, we can make that big thing seem not so overwhelming.

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Cultivating the Virtue of Patience

Patience is far too overlooked as a relic or the past. The world is always so busy and we are consumed by media and results that show up within the blink of an eye. Therefore, many believe that whatever we want to achieve now, should happen just as fast as our whims. When it comes to tackling a big goal, sometimes we find ourselves so impatient that we walk away from the goal before we see any results. Patience is a needed ally that will help us achieve what we seek. We must remind ourselves that Rome was not built in a day.

Endurance for the Long Haul

Life is not a race, even though it can seem like it is. Competing and comparing to others will make us weak in the long run, especially if our thoughts are constantly consumed about how better or worse someone else is faring. Taking life a day at a time, stopping to be aware in the present moment, and live out our life will make all the difference. Every day we should be working on a smaller goal or two, which will accumulate into more experience and readiness for future opportunities. Eventually, with patience and steady work toward our dreams, we will find that we have managed to endure for longer than we thought possible.

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Develop Sharper Focus

When we have tunnel vision, focusing with the utmost determination on the small goals we have set for our day, we sharpen our focus. There are tons of distractions all around us. Whether we are dealing with our inner thoughts, the words of others, social media, or celebrity gossip, we can make a decision to have a selective focus on our set daily goals. When we are able to let worries about work, relationships, how we will achieve that big goal in the end, and other unhelpful things fall away, we can give our full attention to our goals. Over time, making it a habit of focusing on our small steps and goals every day, will make the difference with how soon we will be at the finish line of achievement for the particular goal we have.

Congratulate Your Little Victories

There are no overnight success stories. Success comes when preparation and opportunity meet. Take the time to congratulate yourself on your small successes. Stop to appreciate and thank yourself for the things you have managed to overcome and get right. This is an action that will build your self-esteem and strengthen your focus and determination to achieve. You will see the big picture that over time, with each success you are coming closer to achieving your desired end goal. Work hard, work smart, but don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well done.

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Gratitude

Having a spirit of gratefulness for all the abundance and good things that come into your life, no matter how small or inconsequential they may seem to yourself or others is a key ingredient to success. To give and to receive joyfully is a gift that keeps you grounded, humble, and in touch with your world. Having a spirit of gratitude will change your outlook on life, attract more positivity, and let your inner light shine. A gracious person will see more open doors to opportunity and achieve their success early.

 

With these five ideas incorporated into your daily routine, you can see your dreams become a reality. Everything we wish to achieve first takes a dream, and the desire and motivation to press forward. With a spirit of gratitude, armed with patience and endurance we can succeed. The road may be winding and difficult at times, but with the right mindset and habits, eventually we can overcome and be who we wish to be. The same thinking that creates our challenges and desired goals is not the needed attitude to surmount our obstacles nor achieve our dreams. Every day we can work toward tackling a larger goal, until before we know it, we have arrived.

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