Woodpecker Wars

woodpeckers

I remember, years ago, I used to like woodpeckers, admiring their colorful beauty and stately appearance, being amazed at their peculiar characteristic of using their beak as a drilling tool to find food or make a shelter.

However, when I learned that woodpeckers had taken an interest in my neighbor’s house, I immediately checked mine. Unbeknownst to me, they had been hard at work on the shutters on the south side of my home—fortunately, it was only the shutters.

Anything that hurts or kills a woodpecker—or disturbs their nests — is illegal; they are protected. Click To Tweet

My bride, an amazing cyber-sleuth, quickly learned that:

  • It was usually just one or two woodpeckers that attack one’s abode, not a flock of them.
  • There were a variety of motivations: looking for food, establishing a nest, or trying to attract a mate.
  • There was no one guaranteed solution, but a list of possible ones— that may hinge on their motivation for pecking.
  • Anything that hurts or kills a woodpecker—or disturbs their nests — is illegal; they are protected. (Not that I would want to harm them, but recalling the tenacity and rapidity of their work, courtesy of the old Woody Woodpecker cartoons, I can envision things quickly escalating out of control.)

As a first step, I filled and painted the holes.

That solved the problem—for a few days. Though they never returned to the south side of my house, they moved their focus to the shutters on the north side, which have now been filled twice and repainted.

I made a daily walk around my home’s perimeter, scrutinizing it for the telltale signs of a woodpecker at work. I am was pleased to state that I had been woodpecker free for seven days.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Cross Words

crossword puzzles 1

I have had a lifelong affection with words. An avid reader of fiction as a child and teenager gave way to becoming a student of nonfiction as an adult. Along with that goes forty-one years of random writing experience and eighteen as a magazine publisher. It should come as little surprise then, that I also enjoy crossword puzzles.

I'm marveling that a person with orthography issues, such as mine, could so immensely enjoy crossword puzzles. Click To Tweet

When I work a puzzle, I rely solely on the mind: mine and sometimes my family’s.  (I used to tap all available non-human resources, but upon enduring merciless harassment after buying a crossword dictionary, I swore off artificial assistance.)  Unfortunately, I am, quite ironically, a poor speller.  (My “flexible” pronunciation of most words doesn’t facilitate spelling accuracy either.)

My wife often endures the brunt of my spelling deficiencies.  It might go something like this:

“How do you spell Cat?”

“C-A-T”

“It’s not with a “K?”

“No”

“Could it be four letters?  Like K-A-T-T or K-A-I-T?”

“Ah, no!”

I ponder a bit more.  “I can make kitty work if it only has one T.”

“No, there are definitely two Ts in kitty.”

I contemplate the situation some more, but I’m no longer thinking of a 4 letter word for feline.  Instead, I’m marveling that a person with orthography issues, such as mine, could so immensely enjoy crossword puzzles—and generally complete them quite effectively.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Squirrely Behavior

squirrel

Years ago, the squirrel population around our home seems to be on the increase. One of their favorite pastimes was gathering nuts from my neighbor’s trees and relocating them to my yard. For years this has been happening with acorns, resulting in me pulling up tiny oak trees each spring.

Now they’ve added hickory nuts to their menu, as my bare feet frequently encounter empty half shells in my lawn. Though they try to bury their treasures, my sod is too thick for them to have much success.

These squirrels are increasingly comfortable around humans, too, no longer scurrying away as I approach. When I was moving a sprinkler, I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so.

I approached him to scare him off. He was not deterred.

I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so. Click To Tweet

Forty feet away and he stopped digging to give me a long look, not fearful, but amused.

Thirty feet away and he paused to give a long and vigorous scratch to the back of his head; I think he was grinning at me.

Twenty feet away and he rolled over on this back, but not in a posture of submission as some animals do. He shimmied from side to side, rubbing his back on the hole he was boring, feet flailing in the air with unabashed jubilation. I’m sure he was laughing at me, daring me to come closer.

Ten feet away and he scampered around the tree trunk, poking his head out to watch my approach.

I circled the tree and he did the same, climbing up several feet so we could look at each other in the eye. I think he was enjoying this.

We played hide and seek for a while, and then I couldn’t find him. Eventually looking up, I spied him perched on a branch, looking down on me from a safe distance.

I instructed him sternly to stop digging holes in my lawn. I think we have an understanding.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Living Beneath Your Means

Years ago, I and my bride were talking with a young engaged couple and the subject of finances came up. I shared my thoughts and seemingly gave them something to ponder.

I said that most people in the US live beyond their means. They live paycheck to paycheck, are overextended, and one little glitch sends their world crumbling.

A few people in the US “live at their means.” That is, they spend their money wisely, save for a rainy day—which will eventually happen, don’t try to keep up with everyone else (who are actually living beyond their means), are careful using credit, and make careful investments. In short, they live fiscally responsible lives.

Should you try to live beneath your means? Click To Tweet

My goal, however, is to “live beneath my means.” That is, to live more simply than what I can afford to. This certainly doesn’t imply that I’ve taken a vow of poverty or anything of the sort—I have been too spoiled to attempt that—but I have sworn off extravagance and am largely content with what I have, be it home, car, clothes, and other possessions.

It is most freeing to be not always wanting more and yearning for what is unwise or unwarranted. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals—I do—but they aren’t materialistic in nature. I’ve learned that possessions can weigh you down and often make demands of you: be it time, attention, more money, or worry; plus you really don’t own them anyway—they often own you.

So, let’s keep it simple; it’s much more prudent and a whole lot less stressful.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Save a Tree

In 2010, on a mailed statement, there was a notice that “for every 13 people who go paperless, one tree can be saved.” Really? What does that mean?

  • 13 people go paperless with this company for one month and one tree will be saved, or
  • 13 people go paperless with this company for one year and one tree will be saved, or
  • 13 people go paperless with this company for as long as they’re a customer and one tree will be saved, or
  • 13 people go paperless with all companies for the rest of their lives and one tree will be saved…

None of these explanations makes sense. The first two would not save much paper, while the last two contain too much variability to be accurately quantified. What does make sense is going paperless when it is sensible to do so.

Going paperless and then printing out the paperless statement gains nothing, so if a hard copy is needed, don’t go paperless. However, many statements can be received electronically, stored electronically, and later on, destroyed electronically. A tree can be planted to replace the one I used, but the time lost in trying to save the tree is gone forever. Click To Tweet

I enjoy receiving invoices as email attachments.  I don’t like the alternative of receiving a notice that a statement is available for me to download.  Although a desirable precaution for banking and investment records, it is a hassle. You need to log into a secure site, enter your login and password, navigate to the right page, and download the statement. To make matters worse, it is inadvisable to click on email links, as they can direct you to a bogus site. It is also inadvisable to use the same login and password for each site, which adds another level of complexity and confusion.

I’m all for saving trees and doing whenever it is practical.  However, when saving a tree is time-consuming and frustration-laden, I’ll pass. After all, a tree can be planted to replace the one I used, but the time lost in trying to save the tree is gone forever.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

What I Learned From Rabbits

What I learned from rabbits?

Although I live in a rural area, my immediate surroundings are not; I reside in a subdivision. Even so, wildlife abounds. During the non-snowy months, I can, at any given time, look out my office window and see at least one animal and usually more; I’ve spent the last five months verifying this to be true.

The most common sight is birds. Squirrels come in second; sometimes they’re in pairs: darting, jumping, chasing, climbing.

I also see rabbits; they are common, but not a daily sight (though I don’t spend my time gazing out my window either.) When I see a hare, it’s always alone, which is a bit sad to mention.

But today I saw two: hopping, playing tag, hangin’ out. Then a third one appeared. One hops to my left, the other scurries right, while the third goes in a circle. They were on the smaller side, perhaps siblings from this year’s batch.

Then to my delight, a fourth one-hopped into view. A bit larger and more deliberate in movement. I surmised this to be their mom. For quite a while I admired their comings and goings, their freedom and their life.

I’m glad I took the time to watch them frolic; it was good to slow down—and to marvel.

It was good to slow down and to marvel at times. What do you do to slow down? Click To Tweet

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

planning

I remember when my wife and I were building a house. Actually, we watched someone else build a house for us. Though there were times I wanted to help, I suspect they would have charged more if I tried.

The early stages clipped by quickly: digging the basement, pouring footings and basement walls, framing the house, putting on the roof, roughing in the mechanical systems, adding insulation, and installing drywall. We enjoyed stopping by each night to see the progress and snap pictures to chronicle the birth of our home.

Then things slowed down. They warned us this would happen. Some days saw no progress and occasionally a whole week would march past with seemingly little to show for the passage of time. Much of this was normal, but some resulted from delays in shipping critically needed products, exacerbated by the holidays.

Added to the delays were inevitable cost overruns. While a few of these were our doing, most were not. It seems a quote is merely a guideline for intent, the possibility of what may occur—or not. We were over budget, which made all the worse since our starting point was higher than originally conceived when the project was hatched.

Then there were deviations from design, instigated by well-intended construction folk. Some of these were out of necessity, others were spontaneous decisions that worked out well, but a few were contrary to our wishes, with displeasing results. Of course, there were also instances where the reality of construction didn’t match what we envisioned from the black and white lines on the two-dimensional blueprint.

Whether building a house or living life, things don’t always go as planned. We are not in charge, and we can’t dictate the outcome, but we move forward in faith. Click To Tweet

While we hoped to move earlier than we did, the building inspector had other ideas, pointing out two minor items he objected to. We sigh, we waited, and we prayed for approval.

Building a house is a lot like life. Though we have a general direction, we aren’t in control. Things can cost more, take additional time, and may not end up as expected—regardless of the degree of planning and our attention to detail.

Whether building a house or living life, things don’t always go as planned. We are not in charge, and we can’t dictate the outcome, but we move forward in faith, confident the results will work out—and they will, for our house and our life.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Email Insanity

email sanity

Several years ago, I ordered an inversion table online. Part of the ordering process was to give them my email address.

Once they had my email address, they did the logical thing and began sending me email messages. One or two of them were offers for complementary health devices and exercise equipment, but most were for inversion tables. 

In case you are wondering what an inversion table is, it is essentially a device that allows you to hang upside down. That might cause you to wonder why anyone would want two.  It sure makes me wonder. Maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps my enjoyment would be doubled if I had two.  Could it be that other purchasers of inversion tables turn around a buy a second one a couple weeks later? I think not.

Apparently, their marketing department wasn’t thinking either. Why else would they insist on trying to sell me something I had already bought from them?

Likely they reasoned that it costs next to nothing to send an email to me—no matter how nonsensical. After all, I might decide that I need two: one for the basement and a second one for the living room.  Yeah, right!

Because of an ill-conceived email strategy, they have forever lost the opportunity to sell me something else. Click To Tweet

Their logic is shortsighted, however, because it will cost them something—my business. You see, in exasperation for their thoughtless barrage of messages, I opted out.

Now, because of an ill-conceived email strategy, they have forever lost the opportunity to sell me something else.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Things You Don’t Miss Until They Stop Working

 information superhighway

Years ago, my on-ramp to the Information Superhighway was closed; that is, I lost my Internet connection. It was a painful two days. Although I was fully cognizant of just how much I do online, it was unaware of how fully my life and especially my work has been integrated into and dependent upon the Internet.

The first day was Sunday, so as my day of rest, being Internet-less affected me little. However, Monday was grueling. I quickly realized that without Internet access there was little that I could do—and nothing that I could complete.

It got me thinking how I take things for granted—until I don't have them. Click To Tweet

My backup computer was equipped with a modem so I reverted to dial-up access—once I signed up for an account and reconfigured things. Then I began downloading my messages. Six hours later, the task was finished! I kept the connection up all day, tying up my phone line—but I least able to putt down the shoulder of the Information Superhighway.

It was an arduous day and got me thinking about how I take things for granted—until I don’t have them. As strange as it seems, I think I am more flummoxed when I lose the internet than I am when I lose AC power. (And since we have a well, when we lose power, we also lose water, save what is already in the storage tank.)

Given all this, I’ve made my list of utility reliability, from the most to the least:

  • Natural gas: thankfully, I’ve never had an outage or a problem
  • Landline telephone: problems are rare; it’s therefore interesting that I am in favor of canceling it; see next item
  • Cell Phone: I’ve never had an outage and am almost always in a coverage area
  • Dish television: aside from some initial programming issues, the only outages are brief and weather-related
  • Electricity: there seem to three or four outages a year, usually under a couple of hours in duration
  • Internet Access: there are likely four to six outages a year, generally under 2 hours in duration. Interestingly, this service is provided by the same company that provides my much more dependable landline. I wish the reliability was the same.
  • Cable television: it’s been a while since we had cable TV, but outages of several hours were common.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Happy Fourth of July!

To all my friends and followers living in the United States of America, I wish you a wonderful Fourth of July (Independence Day, if you want to be formal).

While there are certainly reasons for concern, worry, and even complaint, we do live in a wonderful country. We enjoy wide-ranging freedoms, abound in opportunities, and—despite the naysayers—reside in prosperity.

I’m glad to be a citizen of the United States of America and pleased to live in this amazing nation. I thank our forefathers who made this all possible and salute them for their foresight and sacrifices to form our country.

Happy Fourth of July! Click To Tweet

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.