This is from a very wise friend from Ghana:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up, She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases to the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.


The person thought to be the world's oldest blogger, Maria Amelia Lopez, died May 20 in Spain. According to the Associated Press, Lopez, who was 97, loved to communicate with people from around the world. through her blog. 

"It took 20 years off my life," Lopez wrote. "My bloggers are the joy of my life. I did not know there was so much goodness in the world."

Her blog is available at .


Don't miss "At Card Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age"in today's New York Times:

The story reveals new information from research on 90-somethings, especially those who have no signs of dementia. Of course, we'll all be in that pool, right?

Two factors keep showing up as important, if you want to keep those brain cells accessible. One is regular social interaction with friends or family, and the other is the use of grey matter. Wonder if today's young seniors, like us, will benefit from the use of the Internet, which provides both mental stimulation and a virtual social life? Would make an interesting doctoral dissertation, but the candidate might have to wait 20-30 years for the degree.   


Shine On




Here are the lyrics to Daisy May Erlewine's song, Shine On. I think you'll see why I find it perfect  for all survivors, even those of us who simply made it to a certain age.

Knocked me off of my feet
But I think it's time for me to start walking again,
Stop running away from things.
Next time you see me,
I will be singing a new song/
I am learning to shine on.

Shine on, shine on,
There'll be time enough for darkness when everything's gone.
Shine on, shine on,
There is work to be done in the dark before dawn.

It's been hard not to give in,
And it ain't easy living in hard times.
I know it's weighing on your mind.
Next time you see me,
I'll be uplifting, yes I will give you hope!
I am learning as I go to shine on.

Shine on, shine on.
There'll be time enough for darkness before everything's gone.
Shine on, shine on,
There is work to be done in the dark before dawn.

I know how dark it seems,
Feel it coming up inside of me,
And I feel it in you too, in everything you do.
Next time you see me,
We'll both be laughing, oh just to be alive!
We are learning to shine, shine on.

Shine on, shine on.
There'll be time enough for darkness when everything's gone
Shine on, shine on.
There is work to be done in the dark before dawn.

There is work to be done,
So you you've got to shine on.

If you want to hear a snippet of Rani Arbo's version of this song, go to the Daisy Mayhem website,, or go to YouTube to hear May sing it herself: 


We went to hear Rani Arbo and her band Daisy Mayhem, the other night. As usual, we were not disappointed.

It was an unusually wet and cold Saturday for May, but all of the wooden pews and folding chairs in the old Unitarian church were filled. All you had to do was look around to see evidence of the hall's former use. What a perfect use for a former church! 

And, could there be a better venue for a band that describes its musical genre as “agnostic gospel?”

Aside from the flat-out excitement and originality these four classically trained musicians bring to everything they play and sing, we enjoy their song choice. On any given night, they'll play Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan tunes, old hymns, folk tunes, American classics, spirituals, and  sometimes country swing. Sit still long enough – I dare you! – and you’re bound to hear songs you know, or almost know.

Rani, herself, is a cancer survivor. She’s probably pushing 40, maybe a little older, and I could be wrong, but I believe she once said her breast cancer was diagnosed shortly after she gave birth to her son. To the delight of everyone in the audience, he sometimes runs around the stage while his parents perform. 

Daisy Mayhem’s latest CD, Big Old Life, focused on survivorship: hers, theirs and ours.

Survivorship was one of the building blocks of birdsonawireblog, from the very beginning. I saw this blog as a safe place for survivors of one threat or another. Sort of a virtual cafe where we can sit around, sip coffee and gain strength from each other.  

Almost half the women I invited to read this blog are cancer survivors. Some are dealing with it right now, today, as you read this post.  

Others, like me, escaped with their lives long ago. My cancer was detected so early, I’m a bit embarrassed to put myself in the company of those of you who endured hellish treatments and relapses. Still, even a "little bit" of cancer left a big imprint on my soul. That's plenty for me, thank you.  

When Rani started singing “Shine On,” it was all I could do to stay in my seat. I’m surprised every woman in the church didn’t rise up and join in to Daisy May Erlewine’s anthem to surviving whatever it is or was that scared them. My grandmother used to say, a little bit of fear is a good thing. I’ll take just a little bit, please. 

For a taste of Daisy Mayhem, go to They travel all around so, if they’re in your area, I encourage you to go hear them. We keep going back, and always have smiles on our faces when we leave.

Sounding off at the Sacramento Zoo, May 7, 2009 



Here's an interesting story in today's Washington Post, about a long-term study of hundreds of people, and how they age. 

Excerpts from: Body of Evidence, by Lori Aratani, Washington Post Staff Writer, The Washington Post, Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Every year hundreds of people travel to Baltimore for an unusual purpose. They are not here to tour the city's aquarium or sample its fabled blue crabs. They are not in search of fame or money. Other than free lodging, they receive nothing in exchange for their visit, which entails a certain amount of discomfort.

No, these folks, some of whom have made this journey for decades, believe the trip is worth their time and expense because how they live -- calculated according to everything from the strength of their grip to how many apples they consume in a month -- may offer clues to how the rest of us might live better, longer, healthier lives.

These individuals -- homemakers, retirees, doctors and myriad others -- are participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), the country's longest-running study of aging.

Since 1958, a total of more than 1,400 volunteers have agreed to regularly undergo in-depth physicals and memory and other screenings conducted by the study's physicians. The resulting data span more than half a century and are a gold mine for researchers interested in the aging process.

This is no vacation. During their stay, participants will have a physical that goes well beyond sticking their tongues out and saying "ahhhhh." They rarely will sit for more than 30 minutes before they are whisked away for another exam or stuck with another needle. Sprott, now in his 12th year in the study, confirms that the pace can be brutal.

Researchers take routine measures (temperature, blood pressure and weight), but participants also undergo more sophisticated tests. Echocardiograms help researchers examine hearts, and spirometry tests measure lung function. In addition to collecting blood and urine, researchers might also take samples of the participants' breath.

Even simple tests can provide valuable insight. Researchers will evaluate a participant's grip strength, which previous BLSA research has shown can predict whether someone might be at higher risk of complications after surgery or more likely to die prematurely.

Please go to this url for the complete story----


Ann Sentilles has an interesting post on her blog, The Third Third, about the phenomenon of adult children moving back in with their parents, due to the tough economy. She's writing off a New York Times story, saying it that piece "should, probably make us all stop and think about what we're willing to do under the aegis of 'family' and what's healthy and what's not." See Caught in the Safety Net for the NYT story. Go to the blog section of The Third Third to see what Ann and her readers have to say on the subject.

Come to think of it, I was one of those bratty returnees who lived with (or off) my parents for a period of about six months, long ago. Yes, they provided a safety net, and I would never deny how grateful I was for their support. But, in my case, those few months reflected the most compassionate parenting they ever provided to either me or my brother since our birth, and luckily for me, they did it when I really, really needed it.

The week of my 30th birthday, I arrived at my parents’ home dangerously thin, battered and bruised, carrying my 20-month-old son. It wasn’t my choice to move back in with them, but I had run from a dangerous situation, had no money and no other choices. Believe me, I had already surveyed friends with spare rooms, and no one was willing to take us in. That’s what parents are for, they said.

It wasn’t easy for me to ask for help, since I had fled their home when I was 17 and married – against all their good advice – at 19. Now, here I was knocking on their door. 

At first, living with my folks was like being on a very low-budget vacation. The two of them scurried around trying to make the baby and me comfortable. They let me sleep. They bought a stroller. They showed us around the town they had just moved to, and introduced me to some of their friends. My dad built a sandbox in the back yard. My mother talked about quitting her job, so she could “help with the baby.” 

Mostly, I remember feeling somewhat horrified, like I had moved into an assistant living center and my parents were recreation directors. Thinking back, I realize they both were in their late 50s, and still very much in the workforce. At 30, you don't know much.

For the first few months, my mom and dad provided a room, food and disposable diapers with the understanding that, as soon as I had income, I would pay for my own stuff and chip into the general fund. Until then, I offered to cook and clean, do laundry, run errands, take them to and pick them up from work, and do anything else they needed. I expected them to be happy with that. They weren’t. They let me do the errands and driving, but they didn’t like my cleaning technique or the (organic) food I cooked. So, I just kept out of their hair. 

Soon after my boy and I got there, I went into high gear, knowing our days at their home were numbered. Got a haircut, driver’s license, library card, babysitter, promise of a job, all in the first 6-8 weeks. After that, we left for three months so I could finish graduate school with some money I borrowed from my dad (and paid back as soon as I began teaching the next fall). The baby and I shared a dorm room and ate in the dining hall, while I studied and worked on my master’s thesis. Then, it was back to the folks’ and the start of a full-time teaching job. 

A little over three months into that job, my mother announced it was time for us to leave. She told me this around Christmas, setting February 1 as our drop-dead moving date. I was shocked, but understood their need to regain control over their living space. Not that we were really hard on it. I had borrowed an old car from a friend, took the baby to a babysitter every day (even though my mother had quit her job to help), and made monthly contributions of almost half my paycheck to the food/shelter fund. I thought we were leaving a pretty light footprint, but I guess not. They needed their space. It was understandable. 

Until she died last year, my mother told the story over and over again about how she “almost raised” my son. After all, he lived in their house when he was a baby! 

That’s not how I remember it, but, hey, whatever floats your boat. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 

Put your cursor over the colored dot for more information. 


I love Nancy Gibbs. A crackerjack reporter, she now has the enviable job of commenting on life as it rolls by, for Time Magazine. Gibbs is a writer writers read. See what you think:

Do-It-Yourself Heroes
By NANCY GIBBS Monday, May. 18, 2009

Human beings have always created the heroes we need, from Hercules and Sherlock Holmes--whose supernatural gifts let them conquer mighty foes--to Underdog and the Ugly Duckling--whose transformations were themselves acts of heroism. Right now, when the headlines clang with catastrophe and confusion, it's natural that we'd be at it again, searching for heroes to suit the times.

First there was Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, walking the length of his sinking plane to be sure every last passenger was safely off. Then came Captain Richard Phillips, battling pirates in angry seas. And finally there's Susan Boyle, the unemployed church lady whose dying mother had told her to chase her ridiculous dreams of musical stardom.

For more, go to:,9171,1896722,00.html