- Posts for Witchy Wednesday category
Friends | Our Prairie Nest

As October nears, I feel the pull of the seasons stronger than ever. It draws me toward home with nostalgia for family and New England, and… certain friends.

The idea of a “friend” has changed over the years, and I have some thoughts on it. Probably cynical ones, mind you, because I don’t think that, outwardly, a friend is what it used to be pre-internet.

At its very core, the idea of having a friend is to have a support system – someone who shares some of your interests and views, someone you can have fun with, and who is also there for you when life is not so fun. It’s kind of like a spouse or partner, except there’s no desire for physical intimacy and no romantic attachment.

Things like Facebook have complicated this idea of friendship. For example, I don’t see all of my Facebook “friends” as friends. A few are friends in the traditional sense of the word – people whose company I enjoy, who I can do fun things and talk about shared interests with, and exchange gripes about our lives with, but we’re talking maybe 5% of the people in my entire “Friends List.” And at least one of those friends doubles as family, because I’m lucky enough to have a great bond with my sister.

Some were friends once, but we’ve grown apart. I like that we’ve kept in touch, but the bond isn’t as strong or there at all. That’s just a fact of life. It’s nice to keep up with them, but I won’t be scheduling coffee dates with them from 1400 miles away.

Where does that leave the other people on this “Friends List”? Some are online friends only, people I’ve “known” for a number of years online and would be happy to meet in real life, but distance prevents it. These friends were discovered through a specific shared interest, but also have other qualities or shared views that I value. These are fellow writers, readers, and genealogists, and there’s often another quality or aspect to their personality that makes me want to keep up with them, too.

Some are other moms whose kids are the same age as my daughter. I like these moms and I enjoy hanging out with them. However, that time is sporadic and not likely to change. That’s okay. I don’t mind that, but I’ll be honest: I prefer their Millennial, 20-and-30-something company over my own Generation X, anyway (and my rant about how Generation X disappointed me and let the world down is a whole other kettle of fish). So I don’t pass up a chance to see these moms, if I can help it. In fact, I’d like to spend more time with them.

And it’s not that I don’t hang out with the moms whose kids are the same age as my son; it’s just that I don’t know any. My son doesn’t participate in social activities or parties that have ever necessitated my presence, so the one time I briefly met other mothers was the year he flirted with the idea of playing baseball. They already had their mom cliques, as opposed to the moms I met when my daughter started pre-school. Of course, they’ve formed their social groups, too, but it was a lot easier to be welcomed among them from the get-go. As far as the high school moms, well… it turns out they’re part of the Gen Xers I want to rant about, anyway.

That leaves what I call “friendly acquaintances” – local people that I socialize with, but with whom I have nothing in common. They aren’t people I can call when I’m out of gas and stranded, or to vent about something. Most of them aren’t people I would socialize with outside of school or scouting, because not only do we not have enough in common to draw us together, they’re also just too different than me when it comes to values, views, and more. And, honestly, I don’t want to socialize with them beyond what’s necessary. At some point, these people won’t be on my “Friends List” because I won’t have to participate in activities with them as our children grow up. I won’t be worried about offending them by rejecting a friend request or unfriending them once my daughter has either graduated or we’ve moved.

That’s where it comes across as cynical, I suppose. I certainly see the value in having acquaintances who are different. But we aren’t talking cultural differences. These are stark political and religious differences, and all they do is remind me of how uncomfortable it is to be in the Midwest, sometimes. These are the people who send friend requests that, if I didn’t have to see them face-to-face, I would otherwise reject.

That sounds awful, I know, but it’s the truth. I really don’t have any interest in befriending Conservatives or loud/hardcore Christians, for example. Many of these people post or share things that are insulting to anyone who doesn’t share their political views and religious beliefs. Sometimes, all they talk about is their church this and their church that, and they have to inject it into every conversation. It’s obnoxious, to say the least.

The thing is, I’ve had enough of seeing and talking to these kinds of people to know how this goes. They are who they are, and I am who I am, and there’s really no need to pretend either of us want to be friends. It’s okay with me not to get a friend request from you. Just because we see each other once or twice a month in real life, you don’t need to feel obligated to send me a friend request.

These folks always get Unfollowed by me and placed on a specific list. This way, A. I don’t see their posts and B. I can hide some of mine from them, if I so choose. Even if I do see what they post, it’s not going to sway my views or beliefs. No matter what, my children (aka the Atheist Teenager and Wannabe Witch Child) are not going to attend your church event or Vacation Bible School, and I’m still going to vote blue.

Rather than hope people will change, I’m simply at an age where I just want to find “my people.” That’s all. Nothing against anyone else for not sharing my views or beliefs. It’s just “that I don’t have the time or energy for that.

I think my biggest fear is that people will see my feelings as narrow-minded or cynical or misanthropic, but the plain truth is I’m just done with fighting uphill battles. I did it for almost 20 years with my ex-laws. Instead, I would rather lend my energy to something positive. Part of that happens by spending time with others who share the same path as me.

I just want to find “my” people. That’s all. And I acknowledge that most people, especially in the rural Midwest, aren’t going to be a part of the circle I want to find or create. So even though I’m afraid everyone will see that desire as a negative, to me it’s a positive, an acknowledgement that I don’t want to waste my precious time and energy on things that don’t serve me well.

And let’s paraphrase my favorite line from one of my favorite movies of all time when it comes to relationships (romantic or platonic): I’d rather be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong ones.

Stream Makeup | Our Prairie Nest
Game Stream Makeup

Playing an RPG is fun. You get together with friends around a table with character sheets, dice, and pizza, and spend 3 or more hours pretending to be someone else on an adventure.

Or you do it online from different states thanks to Discord and Roll20… and also broadcast it for the entire world to see, if they’re so inclined.

I wear makeup almost every day, but when it comes to gaming time, I need to turn it up to 11 since we’re on a stream. There are a lot of reasons for this – bad lighting, cameras that don’t really enhance, and then certain things that look better on camera than others. For example, never wear red because even if it’s a good color for you, red is known to “bleed” and may also make you look super pale, which isn’t flattering.

The makeup I wear on camera is very different than what I wear when I leave the house. Daytime makeup for me ranges from a coat of mascara to look slightly “done” to my entire face – primer, a touch of foundation below my eyes, power, bronzer and highlighter, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss. I usually keep these colors neutral or use one strong color, at most.

When streaming our D&D, Star Wars, and other games, however, I don’t want my features to fade. So here’s my gaming “look”:

Streaming Makeup - Close Up | Our Prairie Nest

As you can tell, I don’t have the best lighting and if I didn’t do anything to my eyes and lips, they would probably be unnoticable. Also, because the light is directly on my face, I like to make sure my skin tone is even (not usually an issue, but I’m a perfectionist when it comes to the possibility of people watching our gameplay).

It’s very similar to being on stage – neutral colors just won’t do. When I was in drama, we always had to use a heavy hand with our makeup, and that’s what I do on Saturday nights for gaming. I joke that I have to “get tarted up” but, honestly, no one can actually tell that I’m wearing a lot of makeup. On the other side of the stream, I look normal. But the extra layers of cosmetics are to thank for that. Here’s how I do it:

Primer – after I shower and use a light moisturizer and eye gel, primer is a must. My usual day-to-day primer is Smashbox Photo Finish, but for gaming, I use Yensa color + face Tone Up Primer Essential Glow. I like Smashbox, but Yensa? Yensa is love. It has that something extra, so I save it for special occasions, like conferences, parties, and gaming.

Foundation – I usually don’t put this all over my face, except on game nights. Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless in Classic Ivory is my go-to. I follow it up with pressed powder from the same brand and product line, except in Translucent, though I use a brush to apply the powder – never a puff.

My favorite thing to play with is eye makeup, so I start with Sugar Arch Arrival Brow Definer in Taupe Tom. My brows aren’t overly plucked or waxed or anything. I just keep them tidy and natural, so the bit of brow pencil adds a little darkness and definition, and helps “frame” my face.

I normally go for Space Case eyeshadow in Messy Lochnessy. It’s a beautiful, medium evergreen with a golden shimmer to it. While I will wear it during the day, too, the way I apply it for game nights is different. During the day, I just sweep on a layer or two of eyeshadow and call it good. For game streaming, I draw a bit of a cat eye on the outer parts of both eyelids to define the edges of my eyes.

If I use a lighter-colored eyeshadow, eyeliner is a must for me. I always use black for games. Regardless of the eyeshadow color and/or eyeliner, the next thing I use is highlighter. Ciate London in Moondust gives a crazy-strong glow, so use it sparingly. Because it’s pretty powerful stuff, I use it only on my eyes. An angled eyeliner brush gives me the perfect amount to highlight the inner corners, as well as line my eyes, if I want. I also will use it just below my eyebrows.

Of course, I finish off with mascara. Normally, I keep it light, but some nights I will go for thicker, darker lashes. My absolute favorite mascara (and makeup line, honestly) of all time is Pixi by Petra Lashlift. It has a wand within a wand. I use the skinny wand everyday for lash definition, without thickness, but sometimes on game nights, I’ll use the chunky wand for volume. Of course, I always, always, always comb my lashes out. No clumps allowed.

Once eyes are done, I dust a bit of blush or bronzer, depending on my mood, season, eyeshadow, etc. just on and below my cheekbones. Then, I follow it up with a swirl of highlighter on my cheekbones and blend. I use the same brush to swipe some of the blush/highlighter blend down the front of my nose and across my chin.

All of this work gets me even skin, defined features, and a nice glow. And while I would normally balance out dark or smoky eyes with a neutral lipstick or gloss, I go strong on the lips, too. I actually prefer clear or shimmery glosses, but game night calls for some of the darker stuff, usually Ciate London Liquid Velvet in Pin Up or The Balm Creamy Lip Stain in Salut!

When it’s all said and done, I have layers of obvious – but blended – makeup on, something I would never do if I was going out in public. But the camera reduces that and, instead, shows the world a defined, polished face. That’s all I want and I enjoy the work that goes into getting myself camera-ready. 🙂

Welcoming a New Bird | Our Prairie Nest
Welcoming a New Bird

Life with one bird is interesting. Life with two is like leveling up.

Avery is challenging. He was our first bird, hatched in 2011 and ours since spring of that year. Having a Black-Headed Caique – or any bird – is like having a baby, toddler, or pre-schooler. You can read up on it all you want, but until you experience it, you can’t know what it will be like. Because just as every child has a different personality and way of interacting with you, so do birds.

Over the years, we’ve trained Avery, kept him entertained with assorted toys, and also learned he enjoys quiet cuddles. He is at his most positive with interaction and trick training, like many birds. We’ve also taught him good shoulder manners, i.e. you only get mommy’s (my) shoulder if you’re willing to step up and come off when someone says so.

My husband always wanted a second bird, preferably an African Grey, but I thought they were too large. Let’s face it, those beaks are a heck of a lot bigger than a caique’s, and I’ve seen the damage an angry, hormonal, territorial small bird can do to a finger (by the way, you should not get bitten if you’ve learned your bird’s signals; respect their space and don’t push/force interaction; that’s a great way to lose their trust).

But I agreed that Avery could use a companion… if they got along. That’s always a chancy thing, too, bringing home a pet that may or may not jive with your existing household. Case in point: our cats. Kobold can’t stand Shiva, and Shiva seems to think it’s hilarious that all he has to do is look at her, and she runs from him.

However, I said yes to a second bird, which is my limit, and asked a friend about finding one who was being rehomed. She was rehoming some of her birds, because as her kids had grown up, gotten full time jobs, and moved out, she and her husband found they couldn’t keep up with the demands of their own full time jobs, plus outside commitments, plus birds. We met their Congo African Grey, and my husband was smitten. He wanted “his” bird, because Avery is bonded to me. Thus, Apollo the 12-year-old Congo African Grey came to us.

Right away, we learned that our birds have two different personalities: Avery is a spaz, playful, strong-willed, and cuddly. Apollo is shy, uncertain, and sweet. He won’t allow petting, but he will express himself with the various sounds he learned living with his previous family and flock.

After a few days of getting to know Apollo, establishing a routine, and also seeing the dynamic between both Apollo and Avery, we’ve determined some new goals for Avery and training goals for Apollo.

They’re both wicked smart birds. Both know the “step up” command, which is appropriate for all parrots to learn. Apollo needs to develop trust in his new family, as well as self-confidence, so training sessions with his new family should instill this in him.

Goals for Avery

I’ve been training Avery ever since we got him 8 years ago. This includes potty training and trick training, but Daniel will also target train him to give him focus. We will also use Avery to demonstrate flying for Apollo as a way to get from point A to point B. Avery flies wherever he wants, usually my shoulder or head (permitted because he has good manners about stepping up when told). We would like Apollo to feel like it’s okay to fly, too.

It’s not that he can’t fly, but when he tries, he just sort of… descends. 🙂 We will also continue trick training Avery, as caiques are clownish little guys who love to play.

Goals for Apollo

Daniel will use target training with Apollo to teach trust and focus, and also help him stop his aggressive preening. He came to us with some plucking and we don’t expect to see that stop right away. If anything, it might get worse, because he’s in a new home with new people, and that’s scary as heck for anyone. But redirecting his focus while building a bond should help.

We would like to teach him enough trust for us to pet him. Daniel is doing this very slowly and, so far, Apollo will let him touch his wing and pet just above his beak. No pushing this. When Apollo uses his beak to gently move your finger, he means no. We respect his no.

Flying will come with time and trust, we think. We hope using Avery to demonstrate will help.

We also hope dietary changes will help Apollo. He enjoys sinking his beak into something substantial and really shredding it, so we have him on a fresh diet of fruits and vegetables (loves his broccoli stems!), with a homemade chopped/blended veggie/fruit/boiled eggshell mix every other day, and seeds and pellets for treats. We will introduce more formulated pellets for a balance between fresh food and optimized bird nutrition.

Like Avery, Apollo is encouraged to forage and shred. They get seeds as treats and stuffed inside foraging/shreddable toys.

A daily routine is in place that we also hope will help instill trust – a morning shower, breakfast, training, some quiet time with this toys, more training, more quiet time with his toys. And then the kids come home from school (4 days a week) and I come home from work (5 days a week), which means BUSY time. We all eat our dinner in the kitchen, birds and humans. All of us are in bed fairly early, because parrots need about 8 to 12 hours of sleep themselves.

And that is life with birds. I think having one stay-at-home person is important when you have pets that need this much attention. That isn’t doable for every family and I know how privileged we are that we can have one stay-at-home parent for the kids and birds!

As I said previously, it’s like having a toddler. Except you have that toddler for 20+ years. Maybe even 40, 50, or 60. Like parenthood, “parronthood”/a bird’s life isn’t for everyone. But those of us who embrace it find it immensely rewarding to watch our “babies” grow.

Emma Anna Murphy | Our Prairie Nest
Emma Anna Murphy Regan Shaw

I like to go shopping at 7 a.m. Okay, that’s not true. I just so happen to be up at 6:30 to get the kids out the door by 7, and it’s convenient for me to go shopping as soon as they get on the bus. I don’t actually enjoy driving into town that early, but the store is pretty empty, the line at Starbucks is non-existent, and the drive home is peaceful.

Peaceful enough to make me think about the ancestors who are as much a part of my life as if they were still alive. Hello, I’m talking to you, great-great grandma Emma!

I’ve been blogging about Emma since, gosh 2004? Earlier? Emma has been a source of frustration ever since I was 18. I’m now 44, so that’s 26 years of said frustration.

Known records on her start in 1888, when she’s already 25 and marrying her second husband, my great-great grandfather Erastus Bartlett Shaw in Middleborough, Massachusetts. The 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses all give conflicting information about her origin. So do her marriage certificate, her death certificate, and her one and only child’s birth, marriage, and death certificates.

Great-grandpa Harrison Clifford Shaw, their only child, died before I was born and his wife, my great-grandma Nina (Blake) Shaw, died in January 1975, one month after I was born. So I never got to ask either of them questions. I interviewed their daughter, my grandmother, and typed my entire transcript, but she didn’t know precisely where her grandma Emma was born. My closest living link to Emma now is her great-grandchildren – my father and my aunt. Both have been kind enough to test their DNA (thanks to Uncle Pete for his help!).

And that’s been wonderful. In fact, I’ve found likely cousins on that side of the family. Not close cousins – there’s still a gap that needs to be bridged – but there is hope.

Anyway, I’m rambling as usual and here’s the thing about those quiet morning drives alongside the cornfields of rural eastern Nebraska: I have plenty of time to think.

Today I thought about money and my great-great grandma’s relationship to it. The family stories about her almost always mention money:

  1. She was business-minded and ran her own store;
  2. She showed her grandkids pictures of schooners owned by wealthy relatives;
  3. She buried thousands of dollars inside coffee cans in her yard, according to rumor;
  4. She sewed over $4000 in paper money in her dress/es, another rumor.

I started muttering to myself, as I often do when I have nothing but 15 minutes alone in my truck with a cup of coffee and NPR on in the background.

“Why do so many of the stories about Emma center around money? What was Emma’s relationship with money? What in her life informed her views on money?”

I thought about the Great Depression (1929-1939), but decided that had little relevance to Emma’s mentality about money. For contrast and additional context, I considered my great-grandmother, Mildred Marian (Burrell) (St. Onge) Haley.

Mildred Burrell St. Onge Haley | Our Prairie Nest
Mildred Marian Burrell St. Onge Haley

I remember being 32 and how that was still a formative time in my life, learning, growing, and realizing so many things about myself. I simply can’t imagine being that age and having given birth to 7 children, all living in various homes because I couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them. Times were hard throughout the 1920s and I think Mildred never got to a place where she fully recovered or got ahead in life.

So when I consider how her life turned out and compare it to Emma’s supposed money hoarding, I think Emma’s handling of money came from a very different place than Mildred’s.

My meandering thought process led me back to my current hypothesis on Emma: that she was born an illegitimate child, that her mother was a Murphy and the daughter of the couple named as Emma’s parents on her marriage and death certificates, thus meaning her supposed parents were actually her maternal grandparents. Furthermore, it appears Emma was reared by another family. I credit Barbara Poole with discovering the only likely pre-1888 census entry for my Emma many years ago.

Sometime between 1871 and 1888, Emma decided to get out of Manchester, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia and find a better life. If she is the Emma I think she is, I can narrow that even further to between 1879, when she was a sponsor at a baptism in Manchester, and 1888. Her first marriage supposedly happened when she was 16, according to one census, but I have yet to find a marriage record for her and Mr. No-First-Name Regan.

Have I been able to absolutely prove my hypothesis? No. Do I think I will eventually? I hope so. It’s the one question that actually keeps me up at night. I have a consultation with Melanie McComb at NEHGS this month and hope she will give me some other avenues to pursue, because Emma remains a brick wall in my family history. I think, in the end, that it will be a combination of hitting upon the right record and my DNA network that makes it happen. But it might not be 2019, as I’d hoped…