Hungry? Try this: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Zucchini. Not one of mine, but a true entry in the winner-winner-chicken-dinner category of meal options.
We have lived in Texas only two years, but in those two years I’ve really enjoyed experiencing all those unique things that Texas has to offer that, to me, are new, but to every other resident are a plague on survival. For example, summer. Summer in New Mexico is hot and dry, and regardless of your opinions of the added oppression of humidity, 100+F is just freakin’ hot. When we first moved to our home here in central Texas I had taken the kids to the neighborhood park where two other fathers were sweating and swearing about the midday heat. When I asked if the heat gets worse they looked at me like I was special brand of stupid and nodded emphatically. One dad followed up with a careless shrug and said, “It’s not bad if you can regularly get out in the heat and get used to it. Then it’s endurable.” I thought he was a) serious and b) telling the truth. Turns out he was a master weaver of terrible lies for the very next day I took myself on a exploratory bike ride leaving behind me a trail of sweat and fat renderings. My knees were sweating. My ears were sweating. My EYEBALLS were sweating. It was magical, and my body transformed that day, like a superhero who gets blasted with corrosive chemical lubricant and gamma rays, because I biked almost everywhere that summer and the following summer. The kids would fit snugly in the bike trailer, each with a cup of crushed ice to suck on to keep cool and hydrated, and off we’d go to the pool or the grocery store or a park or to crossfit or to the movies. I never minded having to travel by bike. In fact, in the grand human quest for validation this really fit the bill with people either being impressed with my stamina or being impressed with my stupidity. Either way they were impressed so that was a tic in the win column.
Another unique feature of Texas is the different bird population from what I was used to in New Mexico. Rare are the giant fat Western Blue Jays whose rage-filled honking bristled the air, and in their place is an incredible population of smaller, cuter, sweeter tweeting birds that are a joy to listen to when sitting on the back porch. Among this collection of birds is what I’m assuming is a common barn swallow.
Or, as I’ve come to know them, the Greater Central Texas Crapping Swallow. But more on that in a moment. I’m going to do this spectacular thing where I draw a parallel between life and a bird that craps magnificent piles of crap by the front door.
We bought our current house at the very dawn of summer in 2012. March 2013 heralded spring and by the late month and I had cheerfully pointed out that it looked like a pair of swallows was building a mud nest in the alcove over the front door to my visiting parents. (During this little show and tell episode, one of the swallows took the opportunity to tour the interior of our home that fine late evening. After chasing it upstairs, and finally corralling it in the media room I ended up opening the windows and using the lit-up screen of my iPad to effectively swat the intruder back out into the wild suburban jungle.) My mother assured me that this was definitely NOT something I wanted to allow due to a number of sanitation risks, not to mention the unsightly mound of bird leavings, so with some guilt we knocked down the partially constructed mud nest. Two days passed and it was clear the swallows were not deterred and began reconstruction in the exact same spot, and over the next three weeks we were locked in a battle of wills: The swallows persisted in building up a nest, and we continued to knock down their efforts. Then, one day as I was exiting the house through the front door I did my habitual glance upward to make visual contact on the swallows so they wouldn’t dart into the house and was stunned to see a fully completed mud nest tucked over the entry archway, complete with a decorative downy feather edging. The realization of having been DUPED BY TINY BIRDS dawned on me with the light of a nuclear blast: I had only looked for the nest we could see when ENTERING the house, and never checked any of the other three architecturally available surfaces that comprised the entryway alcove. And there, 180 degrees from the nest we insistently knocked down was a completed nest now hosting eggs and two very smug looking swallows who gleefully crapped a monstrous pile of crap over the course of the next few weeks, which only got bigger once the babies learned the art of high altitude defecation. The swallows had worked double time building a decoy nest to keep our destructive broom handle busy while they cleverly built their actual nest on the opposite sides. A small bird had more creative solution awareness in its peanut brain than I had in my ostensibly greater intellect.
In my mind I saw these two swallows flying off to the greenbelt to sit on tiny velvet wingback chairs, their feet propped up on tiny tufted footstools, sipping earl gray tea, enjoying crustless cucumber sandwiches and smiling ruefully and knowingly at each other as they discussed in deeply intellectual words how they were getting the better of me. It was an insulting mental image. As we watched the evolution of the nest with the eggs hatching, the tiny baby bird heads peeping over the edge, the baby birds growing and fledging and crapping with the best of them I decided that there had to be a lesson in this experience. The swallows had a single, pin-pointed goal: to build a sturdy nest in a safe place, free from the threat of egg-stealing bats, vandalizing robins, and the Godzilla inclinations of the homeowner for the sole purpose of procreating other swallows to continue the endless life cycle of dive bombing squirrels and crapping on doorsteps. Their goal was unshakable, and, clearly, unstoppable. Therein was the lesson.
As I find myself caught up in the cyclone of obsessing over weight loss, food, and weight loss I am reminded of these persistent birds. I knocked down their first nest and they calmly shrugged their bird shoulders and agreed that they picked the entryway of an asshole in which to build their nest, but given that it was such a splendid entryway it would be advantageous to find a way to accomplish the goal in spite of the homeowner’s clearly demonstrated preferences. Similarly, I’m trying to build a solid nest of good choices that will yield a healthy offspring of good results, but, either by my own hand or by the intervention of the intergalactic douche-nozzle, Fate, my nest gets knocked down. A lot. That leaves the question of how to build a decoy nest while simultaneously building the real and lasting one.
Life has this consistent habit of changing. One day may go beautifully as planned, and then next five will be like a cartwheeling firecracker of unpredictability. Historically, my ability to adapt and evolve with the flow of life has consistently been poor. Let’s be honest: laughter and poor diet are a sad substitute for laughter and, well, NOT a poor diet. Like the swallows, I want to build the decoy nest of daily chores, activities, plans, and ideas that is secondary to the long-range goals of exercise and eating right. And, while life perpetually knocks down the semi-accomplished decoy nest it will be theoretically too busy to notice the ongoing construction of the permanent nest. Some things don’t have to be subject to a well-aimed broom handle or pressure washer. Some things can continue on steadily regardless of all other environmental variables. I can always find a way to exercise, even if it doesn’t include getting to crossfit exactly on the schedule that I want. I can alway choose to eat the right foods, even when we are scraping the dregs of fast food for a quick meal. I have come to accept that every day will not conform 100% to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean I am allowed to throw my hands up and abandon all good choice making. Good choices are the permanent nest in the frothing sea of knocked-down decoy nests.
There it is. The life lesson of the Greater Central Texas Crapping Swallow. A tenuous connection, I grant you, but a connection nonetheless. Also, there’s no life lesson relating to the giant pile of bird crap we are dealing with for the second spring season in a row. Crap is crap, and periodically it has to be mucked out to make room for fresh crap. As a mother of young children it holds to my belief that it will be many many years before I am no longer dealing with poop in some form or other.