Tuesday, September 1, 2015


For years I've wanted to get all of my grandkids to paint birdhouses for me.  I had this vision that we'd hang them on scattered trees throughout our property, each with their name and date painted in a childish scrawl on the bottom.  I could see us walking hand in hand through the forest every year looking for their particular birdhouse to see if some lucky bird had made it a home.  I saw generations of  those tiny birdhouses everywhere, I practiced gazing with appropriate wonder-filled eyes at every artful avian domain presented to me by pudgy paint spattered hands.  I linked a lineage of marshmallow and Hershey bar sticky fingers with  mine as we traipsed around mapping the colorful mini domiciles.

"Your daddy painted that one when he was your age," I imagined myself saying.

That was my dream.

This year I had the chance to start building that dream when two of my grandsons came to stay.  I was giddy as I strolled the aisles at Hobby Lobby picking out paint and cute little wood appliques.
Finally the big day came, the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky.  I spread a big square of plastic sheeting on the ground under the trees,  arranged all the little pots of paint and found some old t-shirts for my grandsons to wear. The lucky birds swooped overhead to oversee the process.

 I settled in next to my grandsons to share in their delight as they lost themselves in creative abandon.

"Go crazy," I said, fluttering my hands.  "Use as many colors as you want."

Five minutes later:

"I'm done," the seven year old said, as he threw his paint brush down. "I'm going to go throw rocks in the river."

I looked at his birdhouse.  I tried to summon up my wonder-filled eyes.  It was green.  All green.  No cute little flowers or butterflies painted in florescent pinks and purples or Jackson Pollack-like explosions of paint.  Just green.

"Don't you want to add some more color?" I asked.  "We won't even be able to find this among the trees."

"Nope," he said. "I like green."'

"I done, too," the three year old said. "Let's go throw rocks."

At least his was two colors.  Orange and green.

Those were the ugliest damn birdhouses I'd ever seen.  I thought about adding some little flowers and butterflies of my own, but that would have defeated the purpose.  I didn't want to walk through the forest in ten years and say, "Look at that pretty little birdhouse I painted for you."  I wanted them to see what they had painted.  I wanted them to be proud of it. 

 I wanted them to remember this day with fond memories.

So I let them go throw rocks.  Maybe next time I'll let them shoot paint balls at their birdhouses.  Not my dream, but probably closer to theirs.

I wander through the blogs on a daily basis.  I read the comments, especially on the blogs written by bloggers caught in the struggles of early sobriety. I hear the "want this so bad for you " in the replys of all of us that have been there, that made it through.  We want so bad to paint their birdhouses for them. To paint neat rows of tulips and bees happily buzzing about.  We want to see a nest being built twig by twig and momma and daddy birds teaching their young to fly.  We want to walk with them a year or ten from now and look up and point and say, "See how far you've come?  We knew you could do it."

But we can't.

All we can do is let them keep throwing rocks in the stream.  All those endless rocks that make a big splash and then sink beneath the water.  All we can do is sit and wait for them to come back from  the bank of that tumbling river and settle underneath the trees with us and pick up their brushes and make their own beautiful life.

All we can do is keep making our life more beautiful day by day for them to see.   To pull them back from the river.


  1. Thanks for this. I really love your blog. xo

  2. This is really a good one Kary. The metaphor is spot on because there are times I want to grab that birdhouse from another blogger's hands and just paint it myself...or at least TELL them how it SHOULD be painted. Then I remember, as you've pointed out here, that this is their journey and not mine; that I have to let them paint their own birdhouses. That ends up being growth for me too.

    And the only issue you had in the woods on that days is that you have grandSONS and not grandDAUGHTERS. I tried that once with my boys (not bird houses...bug catchers) it was a hoot!

    And took all of 10 minutes.


    1. I know, you'd think I'd realize this after having three boys of my own. Kind of like getting them to decorate Christmas cookies or Easter eggs. Funny story, a couple of years ago I made Christmas cookies for the grandkids to decorate and you should have seen my "big" boys spending 30 minutes on each cookie and then not wanting anyone to eat them because they were too pretty.

  3. Kids are so like that. Green! (Maybe the birds will dig the camo.) Love how you tied this to sobriety and blogs and co-dependence in general. I need to hear this wisdom repeatedly. Great post.

    1. Thank you, Dear. Maybe kids these days are hearing to much, "Go Green!" lol

  4. Yes. Doing it for them defeats the purpose. In both cases.
    Perhaps next time you could have an example birdhouse that you paint.
    That might be the inspiration necessary to get past all green.

    1. What a great idea! I need to paint my own birdhouse. How come I didn't think of that?

  5. I've been there when I was teaching, too.
    Forever trying to force their attention to all the wonders of the world, when they just wanted recess!

    1. Oh my gosh, I bet that is so true. I know for my boys, I wanted so badly for them to love reading like I do. I bought books and books and books. It didn't catch.

  6. Beautifully written Kary, Funny how we have a vision in our head and when it finally happens it is nothing like we thought it would be. I loved the idea of the birdcages. Maybe next time they visit they could add something else to them? A x

    1. That's a good idea, every year they can add something new. Graffiti birdhouses. The grandson will be here again this weekend, maybe I'll make them add something.

  7. Ahhh! That made me all teary (in a good way). Quite true about boys - mine isn't interested in anything that can't be fired, shot or squashed. Xx

  8. I have a feeling I'll be throwing rocks for a while yet :( You write very well x

  9. This is a very good one, Kary. And you're right...it's not necessarily the ones who really need to get sober who quit drinking; it's the ones who really want to get sober. I'm glad you're on this journey with me. xoxo